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An Appreciation of a Misunderstood
Ingredient, with Recipes

by Jennifer McLagan

Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes

There is hardly a more misunderstood ingredient than fat. An unfortunate victim of overzealous scientists and health experts, fat has long been condemned as the source of our health problems, from obesity to heart disease. But before society's recent denunciation of fat (and subsequently carbohydrates), fat—in all its unctuous, luxurious glory—was a crucial part of the human diet. Author Jennifer McLagan explores this long-forgotten pleasure, as well as its long history, in her new cookbook, Fat.

The book is divided into four different types of animal fat: butter, pork fat, poultry fat and beef and lamb fats. Each section is prefaced with a history lesson, an explanation of the different animal parts where fat is found, and the many ways to use it. McLagan covers all aspects—from lard to schmaltz to bone marrow, no fat is left unrendered. The recipes are just as decadent, and dishes such as bacon baklava, suet dumplings and lard cookies are sure to make your doctor faint. But with a little moderation and a commitment to quality meats and ingredients, it's easy—and guilt-free—to fall in love with fat all over again.


Fat Fat-Cooked Fries
Note:This is a good dish to make when you want to use up the fat rendered from making duck confit.

Serves 4

4 Yukon gold potatoes (about 1¾ pounds)
¼ cup duck fat
1 clove garlic, unpeeled
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Fleur de sel

Peel the potatoes and cut lengthwise into quarters. Rinse them under cold water and place in a bowl. Cover with cold water and leave to soak for 30 minutes.

Drain the potatoes and dry them well. In a heavy flameproof casserole large enough to hold the potatoes in a single layer, heat the duck fat over medium-high heat. When it begins to smoke, add the potatoes and the garlic clove. Reduce the heat to medium and cook the potatoes, turning them so that they color evenly until golden on all sides, 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove the garlic and discard. Transfer the potatoes to a large plate and pour off all but one tablespoon of the fat. Return the potatoes to the pan, cover and cook over low heat until they are cooked through, about 15 minutes. Check the potatoes regularly, turning if necessary, and if you hear the fat spitting, lift the lid and wipe off the excess moisture on the inside of it. 

When the potatoes are soft in the center, transfer them to a warmed dish and sprinkle with the chopped parsley and fleur de sel, turning so they are well-coated.

Reviewed by Nancy Huang

(Updated 10/28/08 KR)

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