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Clarified Butter

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Ms. Wolfert,

I must first thank you for taking time to do this Q&A with us eGulleteers.

Nothing is better for us members (at least, I confidently speak for myself) than the perk of having guests such as yourself come and do these sessions. You have an established expertise within the many different culinary streams. And to each of those, you have brought great repute and research. Thanks:smile:

Would you tell us how important a role clarified butter (or similar products, such as smen, ghee, etc) plays in the cuisines of the Middle East, North Africa, Mediterranean and the Eastern world that has had trading or influence of the Middle East.

Also, do you use clarified butter in your American kitchen? Do you find yourself bringing it from foreign lands? Do you make it yourself? What difference do you find between these? What does it relate to taste wise?

Maybe you could share a lore or two related to clarified butter?

Thanks for this Q&A and also for being a fellow member of eGullet. Your posts enrich eGullet in many ways. They certainly inspire me to indulge in food and food memories more intimately. The article on clay pot cooking was simply wonderful.

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Thanks, Suvir. I really enjoy participating on egullet.

Yes, I believe that Smen really does make a difference in Moroccan cooking. Its special flavor is incomparable, especially when added to couscous dishes and tagines. On the other hand, it was the first and only item I gave up when I adapted recipes for my Moroccan cookbook. You could say I "drew a line in the sand." My editor convinced me that Americans simply wouldn't go for it, and since Moroccan food is spice-based with salt-sugar or salt-sour overtones, I didn't feel too much regret over the loss.

In Turkey, sheep's milk butter is essential if you're going to make a really great baklava. Thankfully, I don't make baklava very often. And sheep tail fat is such an important part of Turkish kofte kebab that you immediately notice when you substitute butter or some other fat. But finding sheep tail fat here is impossible or nearly so, so I had to let that one go as well. I am, after all, writing for a North American readership. If I insist on ultra-rarefied ingredients, I fear I will turn people off the dishes and maybe even the cuisine. If I can find a mail order source then I go with the recipe and don't make compromises. I see an important part of my job as coming up with the best possible adaptations. This, I admit, can become a struggle...but then that's part of the challenge. By the way, the one fat I have NOT given up is duck fat. I simply can't roast a chicken or potatoes in the French SouthWest style or make a confit without it.

Sorry, I haven't answered your question on the whys and hows of fat travel; I just dont' know the answer.

By the way, Suvir, I wish you a lot of luck with your new venture. And when I get to New York I will make every effort to visit your new restaurant. I can feel your good will and sincerity in your postings, and am certain these qualities carry over to your food.

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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