Story by Jenny Lee-Adrian
Photography by Kou Vang
Two duck legs slowly poached in their own fat sit in my refrigerator, waiting to be seared and savored. Instead of discarding the duck fat, I used it again to confit more legs, and every time I do, I can’t wait to bite into that tender meat. Reusing fats give me a sense of pride—I’m being economical and resourceful, using what I have rather than running out to buy more. Rendering animal fat takes work, but with patience you can do it yourself.
Historically, cooking with animal fats was the rule and not the exception. Lard was the cooking fat of choice in American and European households up until the early 20th century, when it was edged out by vegetable shortening. Home cooks saved bacon fat in jars. Leaf lard from around a hog’s kidneys made perfect pie dough. Whereas Gentiles cooked with lard, Kosher Jews used schmaltz: rendered chicken, duck, or goose fat. Schmaltz is made by slowly cooking bits of chicken skin, adding chopped onions after the skin turns golden brown. The cracklings and fried onions are called gribenes. Sautéing vegetables in … Read More