Thursday, February 9, 2012

Duck Fat Fries at Home


Duck fat. Never, ever would I have imagined a couple of years ago that the fat of a duck would some day be such a delicacy.  Duck fat was something undesirable when you ordered the fowl in a restaurant. Nobody likes fatty duck!  When preparing duck at home, you try to cook the fat out of the duck. You prick the hell out of the skin to allow all the fat to escape.  It certainly never occurred to me that very same unwanted stuff in the bottom of the roasting pan would become liquid gold!  

Here we are a few years older, not necessarily wiser, and I'm finding duck fat fries all over the menus of the best of restaurants.  They are cooking with the dregs in the bottom of pans across the world and making delicious, crisp, flavorful potatoes that I could cry over they're so good! 

Did you see the episode of The Best Thing I Ever Ate on Food Network where Michael Symon strolls out of Lola (his premier restaurant in Cleveland on 4th Street) walks a few doors down to The Greenhouse Tavern, sidles up to the bar and simultaneously waxes poetic about the glories of their Duck Fries and giddily devours them?  Once I saw that episode those fries became a goal, a quest, a raison d'être.  It's a good thing Kimber lives in Cleveland!  We sidled up to that very same bar at The Greenhouse Tavern ourselves and put in our order.

You know how the anticipation of something can be a let down when you actually achieve it?  NOT IN THIS CASE!  Kimber and I shared them.  Savored them. Waxed poetic ourselves over them.  We may even have been giddy over them ourselves!  Sigh.  And then we (okay, I) craved them.  Oh sure, Kimber lives in Cleveland and can hit up 4th Street and Lola and The Greenhouse Tavern at will.  But not this poor soul, I still had to dream about their goodness.

So I decided to make them at home.  And I BOUGHT duck fat!  Oh yes I did.  I paid good, hard-earned money for the very same stuff I'd been turning my nose up at and throwing away for years. And on Superbowl Sunday I made them.  In fact, I made TWO kinds of potatoes in the precious previously maligned magic substance.  Sweet potatoes and white potatoes floated and bubbled and sizzled in the golden fat until they, too, were golden.  You know when you make French fries from scratch and your whole house smells like grease for days?  Not with duck fat.  The house smells roasting duck.  The air is perfumed with it!  And it was easy to do.  Simple, actually. 

When I was a kid, my mom always made fries from scratch.  There weren't frozen fries back then.  I remember her cutting the potatoes - Russets - into long sticks and soaking them in ice water for a while.  Then she'd pour off the water, lay out a terrycloth towel, lay the drained potatoes across the towel, roll it up and remove every bit of moisture before cooking them in hot oil.  So I went back in time and made my new-fangled fries the same way my mom had made hers so many years ago.  Roots.  I've got 'em.  Once they came out of the oil, I sprinkled them with a little Kosher salt and just a kiss of vinegar.  And they were heaven. 

Duck Fries

  • 2 7-ounce tubs D'Artagnan duck fat (Giant Eagle Market District carries it - ask) (believe it or not, you can order it on Amazon, too!)
  • 2 pounds large Russet potatoes - peeled and cut into French fry sized sticks - make them pretty!
  • 1 pound sweet potatoes - peeled and cut into the same size pieces as the Russets
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • vinegar of your choice - I used cider vinegar, but malt vinegar would be wonderful....just not for we gluten-free folks
Using a large, deep heavy pot, heat the duck fat to 375 degrees.  CAREFULLY lower the fries into the oil and fry until crisp and golden brown.  You'll need to do this in several not crowd!  
As each batch is done, remove to a paper towel-lined baking sheet and keep warm in the oven (200 degrees) until all the fries are ready.  Sprinkle with the salt, splash a little vinegar over and get ready to enjoy some of the best, most flavorful fries you've ever had!
Do NOT throw out the fat!  Let it cool, pour it back into the original containers and store it in the refrigerator until the next time.  And there will be a next time, trust me.
NOTE:  I use a deep pot because the cost of the duck fat is prohibitive to using in a fryer.  The duck fat is $5.99 a small container at Giant Eagle.  The same as it is online, but you don't have to pay for shipping and you don't have to wait for it!  Of course, if you don't live where you can get it in the store, it would be worth having it shipped, in my opinion.
One interesting me anyway...when you open the container, the fat is white.  When it melts, it turns gold.  And when it solidifies again?  White again.  And there was NO loss of fat in the cooking process!  That's a sign of a good cooking temp AND a good fat.  
One more thing.  Next time I make duck, I am SAVING the fat!  No more dissing the duck fat for me.  Duck fat respect.  Amen.
Okay....another thing.  The picture above?  Obviously the fries are in the back, the Old Bay Wings are in the front. 


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