Thursday, January 17, 2013

My Latest Obsession-Duck Fat

Fat. That wonderful cooking staple that makes everything taste like heaven. Creamy butter and ghee, salty-smoky bacon grease, rich olive oil...they are all good but lately I have a new love.

Duck fat.

It was a serendipitous meeting. Back in December I had gone to my favorite butcher (Long's Meat Market) with the intent of picking up a goose for Christmas dinner and maybe a tub of lard if they had any. That's it. I have to make a list when I go to this place, otherwise I end up spending my entire paycheck.

As I waited for my turn at the counter, intently ignoring the grass-fed, pasture-raised T-bone steaks whispering my name, I examined the contents of a small refrigerator: goose breast, venison medallions, whole quail, and....tubs of duck fat.

Hmmm. I've never tried duck fat. Wasn't there something on Mark's Daily Apple about duck fat being healthy? I picked up a tub figuring it would be fun to give it a try, collected my goose (and a couple pasture-raised pork chops that sneaked into the bag when I wasn't looking) and headed home to learn more about my new fatty friend.

What I found was interesting. Duck fat is useful for its high smoke point and mild flavor. At room temperature it is a semi-solid and, unlike glorious bacon grease, it provides a lusciousness that enhances the dish's flavors rather than overpowering them. In composition its about 35% saturated fat, 52% monounsaturated fat (including small amounts of antimicrobial palmitoleic acid) and about 13% polyunsaturated fat.  Its been suggested that duck fat can improve cardiovascular health and may be part of the reason the French are so healthy (along with the consumption of red wine, aka the French paradox).

I'm not a doctor so I can't guarantee that duck fat is some miracle substance that will improve your health. Your taste-buds however will thank you. I first tried it out on some bell peppers and onions. As it melted into a golden puddle this deep, rich, drool-causing smell wafted up. Honestly I can't describe it other than rich-its like the best-poultry-gravy-you've-ever-eaten smell...if that makes any sense. I tossed in my veggies, got them coated up, and let them saute away, giving a quick stir every now and then. After about 8 minutes I had the best platter of sauteed veggies I've ever had. The duck fat provided a creamy richness that turned ordinary onions and peppers into something spectacular.

Since then its become my favorite fat. I use it to brown meat before tossing in the crock-pot or finishing in the oven, sauteing veggies, and frying eggs.Want the best fried chicken ever? Use duck fat. (I've been told to get true french fries you need to fry the taters in duck fat.) I'm sure at some point I'll figure out what fat goes with what food (sorta like wine-food pairings) but at the moment I am in LUV with duck fat and use it for everything. Sadly, I haven't found it in any of the local stores, only at the butcher. Oh well, I can always use more meat for the freezer.

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