I’ve always suspected that the secret behind the pyramid of golden, crispy French fries I once ate at Chez Louis in Paris was . . . (drum roll): duck fat!
Why All the Quacking about Duck Fat?
When I mentioned cooking Brussels sprouts in a recent post, John Nash over at Starr’s Wines sent me a photo of a jar of duck fat, that they carry at the store. It was enough to inspire me to stop by for a chat and a container of the silky, flavor enhancer. Visiting with John Nash and Bud Starr is always a treat, because each time I learn something new about cheese, wine, coffee, meat, or gourmet cooking.
When I bought one of their huge, chocolate chip cookies, John said he was planning to make a new variety, that includes chips of raspberry chocolate from his favorite chocolatier. I need to check back on this . . . and soon. But I digress.
At the farm, I used the velvety duck fat in two of my favorite recipes: Duck Fat Roasted Potatoes and Duck Fat Brussels Sprouts. I did it with all the joy that Julia Child showed when massaging poultry with butter. “I always give my bird a generous butter massage before I put it in the oven,” because, she said, “the chicken likes it — and, so do I.”
Julia was a believer in butter, but spoke less kindly about duck fat. During one of her French Chef episodes, she dismissed the addition as unnecessary, though she used goose fat liberally.
With the addition of duck fat, the potatoes turned out crispy and golden on the outside; creamy on the inside. I parboiled them a while, so they didn’t take as long in the oven. But you can shave the time even more by using pre-cut, non-flavored, French fries from the freezers section.
I still have some duck fat left, which the guys at Starr’s said would keep a good while. But I also read it can be frozen in ice cube trays and used as needed.
Jangled with Flavor
The Old Bacon Grease Can
One of the wedding shower gifts I received years ago was a kitchen canister set, that included a tin for bacon drippings. You don’t see those sitting by the stove much anymore. But once upon a time, every well-appointed kitchen had a continer, usually with a strainer included. My mother used a Mason jar, so the dark bits just came to the top. When you needed a bit of flavor, you added a spoonful to gravy, veggies, eggs, or pan fried meats.
Then along came the Cholesterol Revolution and I transformed my tin into a holder for stove utensils. Since then we’ve all fought to find new, healthier seasonings. But it’s hard to beat fat for flavor.
While duck fat is often seen as too decadent, hard to find, and costly ($8-$14 for a small jar), it’s still considered better than butter on the fat scale. Though it’s high in beneficial unsaturated fats, it’s still no match for olive oil.
So it’s best used for special occasions, when you want to impart a golden crust on roasted potatoes or luscious flavor to sauteed veggies. Smear it over poultry or slip it under the skin for a golden crispy bird. The addition also gives a flavor boost to sauted pork chops, chicken breasts, or seafood.
Like chocolate, it’s best consumed occasionally rather than daily.