Clarified butter or ghee
my partner and i make ghee on a regular basis. i am not sure what the difference is b/w ghee and clarified butter, but we learned it from an indian cookbook so we call it ghee.
we use it for indian cooking, mostly, but it is also great for hi-heat sauteeing of greens, or anything else where you want a butter's flavor but are using high heat. It has a wonderful caramelly flavor.
Ghee keeps well in warmer/more humid climates, which is partially why it is extensively used in places like India and Ethiopia. If you make it carefully, it will keep for months in the fridge.
--Be sure to use unsalted butter.
--After you've put the ghee in a storage vessel, let it cool thoroughly before closing the vessel. If you close it too soon, condensation may occur (on the bottom, strangely enough) and cause mold. You can let it cool all the way to room temp. It won't suffer. In fact, in the winter we just leave our ghee out on the counter.
We use the oven method: put a pound of butter in a pyrex bowl, turn the oven on to 300F, and let the butter melt in there for about an hour. After an hour it will be hot and sometimes will spurt little bubbles, so carefully remove it and let it cool for about 15 mins. Then skim off the crusty top. As everyone has explained, you want the middle. I skim off the top and eat it on bread, usually immediately--it's like power-butter. Then the middle stuff gets ladled into a glass jar. If you're very careful and do not disturb the liquid, you can get almost all of the clear stuff out with the ladle. The remaining clear stuff and the cloudy stuff on the bottom is OK for basic cooking (someone mentioned biscuits--great idea, i'll have to try it!), but we usually feed it to the chickens. They love it.
Pick up a GLASS gravy skimmer. Makes it so much easier- just put it into the microwave on a low temp (I use 20%) until the butter has melted. Let it settle (should be obvious) and skim off the top layer, then the middle.
To be honest, I usually combine the top two layers and use the lower layer as the oil for frying eggs, etc. I usually save the lower layer in the freezer vacuum packed until a scout camp and use it all up with biscuits, frying, etc at the scout camp. Also can be used as a great starting point for hot wings coating.
The clarified butter is not as flavorful as the regular unsalted butter.
Clarified butter is butter with the milk solids removed. The purpose is to get rid of moisture in the butter. This can serve two purposes. It raises the smoke point so that you can sauté at higher temperatures without burning the fat. It's not as heat friendly as olive oil but the flavor can be more desirable sometimes. Lowering the moisture also helps when using butter in an emulsification such as a hollandaise.
It's easy to make your own clarified butter. Place a few sticks of butter in a small saucepan and heat slowly. The butter will melt and separate into three layers. You want the middle one. Skim the milk solids floating on top (being high in flavor these milk solids are great on toast). Then pour the oily looking layer into a jar or Tupperware and refrigerate. I think it will keep for a month or so but I could be wrong. I always use mine up in a few weeks before I make more.