Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Semn - Dark clarified Butter

Glass container contains room temperature semn, bowl contains heated semn

Semn is a staple in Yemeni baking and it is also used to flavor sweet dishes. It is like ghee but it is cooked even beyond that point until it reaches a rich flavor and dark brown color. This is the only form of butter that is used in Yemeni cuisine. I believe I am the first to post a photo of and provide preparation instructions. I can't believe semn isn't common to any other cuisine.

Directions: Use a deep pot because the butter will foam and expand. The number of sticks to use depends on how much you need. A good size to start with is 4 sticks. Melt butter over medium heat. Remember never leave the butter unattended. Once it is melted, it will heat to a high temperature and then eventually expand. When it is starts expanding, turn down the heat to low and stir with a wooden spoon until it shrinks back to normal size. Eventually it will stop expanding and just bubble. At this point you no longer need to stir. Watch carefully for browning. Because it is foamy, you won't be able to tell its true color until after it has cooled. So it is crucial that you watch out for the tiny specks and the color of the foam. You want the specks to be a dark brown, not a coffee brown which means it has burned. The foam should be a golden brown. Once it reached the right color remove from heat. Let cool until just warm. Pour warm semn into a glass container, avoid pouring in the solid material that had settled to the bottom of the pan. Cover with lid. Semn will solidify once cooled. Store semn at room temperature. When you need semn, scoop some into a bowl and heat in the microwave or in a pan on the stovetop until melted.

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