Ok, someone mentioned Mac-n-Cheese. Which led me to a mornay sauce. Which requires a bechamel. Leading to roux. Dropping me on the doorstep of clarified butter. I haven't ever used or made it. Is there a reasonable way to make it? Can I make a huge batch and keep it forever? Should I even bother for a mac-n-cheese?
Clarified butter is rather simple to make. It's simply butter that has had the milk solids and water removed. It does last longer than regular butter, and can be stored for several weeks in the refrigerator. It also has a higher smoke point than regular butter, so you can use it when higher temperatures are called for without it smoking or burning.
- Slowly melt your butter and let it sit for a bit to separate
- Skim off the foam from the top
- Gently pour the butter off of the milk solids which have settled
You'll be left with about 75% of what you started with. I'm not sure what you mean by huge batch, but I usually make about a sticks worth at a time, as needed.
A really easy way to make it can be found here, on Cooking for Engineers.
Yeah, you really don't need clarified butter for roux. Clarified butter is for higher-heat applications, generally, or making the hollandaise family of sauces.
When making me (heh) I just use equal parts butter and flour, tossed into a medium-hot pan and cooked together. Stir (wooden spoon is preferable) until the raw flour taste is cooked out. Then to make your bechamel, whisk in your milk--slowly at first! You want to loosen up the roux, change it from a paste to a thick liquid then an actual sauce. Nutmeg is traditional at this point for bechamel. Then to turn it into a Mornay, whisk in handfuls of grated cheese until you reach your desired cheese level. Again, go slowly, it can split if you're over-aggressive. Then add pasta, bake, etc.
Clarified butter, also known as ghee, is wonderful. Stores in the fridge forever, has a great mouth feel, has a particular scent, and, unlike butter, doesn't burn! You should definitely try it. You can buy some the first time, so you know what you're going for, but afterwards you can make your own.
I always have some in the fridge, and use it primarily when cooking Indian food.