Duck fat. Yep. It’s the secret ingredient in this fabulous-looking plate of French fries below, not to mention lots of other dishes you might have enjoyed at upscale restaurants lately. Mixed into burgers, used to fry potatoes or even to marinate olives, we’ve been running into off-the-grid delicious food in all of our SB cities, and every time we ask what makes it so good, we’re told it’s duck fat. Who knew? Here are a few ways you can enjoy this magic mix-in at home, along with a recipe for perfectly sautéed potatoes that we can’t wait to cook!
First, though, where to get duck fat? The easiest source is your local butcher. I asked Porter Road Butcher in Nashville if they keep duck fat in stock, and though they have in the past, they were out of it when I called. Whole Foods also carries duck fat, but usually only in the fall and winter months. Not to worry though, there are other methods to procure. Online retailers like Williams-Sonoma sell it, but you can also render your own duck fat at home. Linda Reeve, our SB social media guru, knows a lot about rendering your own duck fat — she’s married to an Englishman whose notion of comfort food often involves this ingredient. She says to buy a whole, frozen duck at the grocery and follow these few steps: simply cut off the skin and visible fat from the whole (defrosted) duck, then chop that skin and fat into small pieces and boil in a half cup of water on the stove for about an hour. (See Saveur magazine for more information on rendering your own duck fat.) You’ll wind up with a cup full of golden goodness that is perfect for dishes like these:
Duck Fat Popcorn
Heidi Potter, SB Louisville City Manager, says this about popcorn made with duck fat at Eiderdown, a favorite restaurant in her neck of the woods: “This dish is probably the most popular appetizer on the menu. It’s simple. It’s $4. It is the most addictive appetizer I have ever eaten. Subtle flavors of duck fat and herbed salt give a little something special to this popcorn. Don’t eat so much that you spoil your dinner.”
Duck Fat Olives
Moto, an upscale Italian restaurant in Nashville, is where I recently began a love affair with the most divine olives E.V.E.R. Warmed in a small amount of duck fat, Moto serves up this appetizer of bright green Castelvetrano olives with roasted garlic, hazelnuts and a little orange zest. I enjoyed them so much I decided to experiment with a home version. Even without the extra ingredients, these olives, warmed through gently on the stovetop with a teaspoon or two of duck fat and served with a glass of wine on the patio, are pretty perfect at home.
Duck Fat Burgers
Burgers also benefit from the addition of this secret ingredient. A little duck fat mixed in with the ground beef adds a subtle but sophisticated flavor that elevates this basic American staple to an awe-inspiring meal. We’re told by our catering friends that adding a tablespoonful or two to your ground beef is all you need. Season and grill as you normally would for a divine experience.
Duck Fat Fries
Atlanta Contributing Editor Katherine Snell is smitten with the duck fat fries at Bantam + Bitty, having discovered the menu item on a trip recently. She says they are very much worth the extra workout required after eating them!
“French fries are one of my favorite indulgences, and before I had the Duck Fat Fries at Bantam + Biddy it was hard for me to imagine how duck fat would enhance one of my true food loves. But, wow, duck fat takes the French fry to a whole new level! They are crispy with the perfect amount of crunch, and you can actually taste the potato, which is a flavor that doesn’t always come through in standard fries.”
Our Memphis City Manager, Christian Owen, recently caught up with chef and cookbook author Jennifer Chandler who shares a recipe for sautéed potatoes that are as yummy as they are easy to prepare.
Jennifer: “The combination of duck fat and potatoes is a match made in heaven. Duck fat enhances the earthy potato flavor and imparts a golden crust. Use duck fat in place of olive oil for any potato dish — roasted potatoes, hash browns, sautéed fingerlings, mashed potatoes, etc. I first learned about using duck fat when I was in culinary school in France. A professor told me to always keep the fat leftover in the pan when sautéing foie gras to enjoy with potatoes the next day. That leftover goodness made a simple potato divine! Duck fat keeps well in the refrigerator and can even be frozen. Here’s my favorite way to enjoy them!”
Mmmm, good. (Maybe not for the waistline during swimsuit season, but that’s what gorgeous coverups are for, right?!)