Tag Archives | Jenny Lee-Adrian

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Chewing the Fat

Rendering and reusing animal fats for future feasts

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

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Duck Confit

Recipe by Jenny Lee-Adrian

For years, I enjoyed eating duck confit at restaurants. Confit, (pronounced kawn-fee), is a classic French dish that involves curing the meat with salt and herbs before slow-cooking it in duck fat. Although making confit is not quick and easy, the meal is more meaningful when I sit down and cut into that duck leg, knowing I rendered the fat, cured the meat and slowly cooked it for hours just to get it right.

Previous and current restaurants I’ve worked in made duck confit. For added guidance, I looked to Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, who co-authored Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing.

Ingredients:

2 duck legs
2 1/2 cups duck fat or extra-virgin olive oil, a cheaper alternative

Cure:

1 tablespoon kosher salt
10 black peppercorns, crushed
2 Bay leaves, crushed
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 sprigs thyme, roughly chopped

Mix ingredients for the cure in a small bowl. Rub the duck legs with the mixture. Make sure duck legs are placed skin-side down in a shallow container before covering with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 12 or up to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Rinse salt and all … Read More

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