If you have spent any amount of time around these parts, you know that my life is basically sponsored by duck fat. Whether I'm sous vide-ing turkey legs or making mayo, I pretty much live for the rich, smoky taste graisse de canard brings to the dinner table.
We all know to save bird bones to make stock, but the excess skin and fat you find yourself with after butchering a piece of poultry is just as valuable. With very little effort on your part, you can render out some of the tastiest cooking fat around.
But the duck isn't the only animal that gives the gift of excellent, flavourful fat. Shmaltz (chicken fat), goose fat and bacon grease all have their delicious uses in the kitchen, particularly when preparing vegetables, or other non-meat delights. Here are a few of my favourites:
Plant parts, both green and starchy
If you do nothing else with these animal fats, you should cook some potatoes. Greasing up a big ol' Russet with any of the above and then coating it liberally with salt before baking will give you the best baked potato of your life, and bacon grease-roasted carrots or Brussels barely need any additional seasoning.
I'm also extremely partial to mushrooms sautéed it both bacon grease and the fat of the duck, as mushrooms are basically little sponges and, if they're going to soak up anything, it might as well be bacon fat. All of these animal fats are also superb when frying up some rice, particularly if it's a veggie-heavy recipe that would benefit from a touch of meaty flavour.
Pastries, bread and biscuits
There is nothing wrong with a traditional, all-butter crust, but this thyme-flecked, duck fat pastry wants to be your new best friend. Though it makes sense to save it for savoury applications, I think it's even better suited as a foil to the sweetness of an apple pie.
But duck isn't the only bird that betters a bready product. Using schmaltz to make brioche gives you a bread with a very tender crumb and a delicate crust, and I have long been a fan of making both biscuits and cornbread with rendered bacon grease.
Super rich mayonnaise
Homemade mayo is great, but homemade duck fat mayo is low-key life-changing. By swapping out some of your neutral oil for rendered animal fat, you get a spread with a richer flavour and texture. I've made duck, goose and bacon fat mayo, and all have greatly improved the quality of my sandwiches.
The best fried eggs
I grew up eating what my dad called "dirty eggs", meaning they were cracked directly into a still very greasy bacon pan moments after the crispy pork strips had been removed. These eggs not only have the crispiest edges, but they are blessed with little flecks of burnt bacon, and have no need for extra salt. I honestly didn't know people fried their eggs in anything other than bacon grease until I moved to Los Angeles at the age of seven which, coincidentally, was around the same time I learned you could extract oil from olives.
Sinful salad dressing
Pouring hot, meaty grease over lettuce may seems a little perverse, but a hot bacon vinaigrette (or schmaltz vinaigrette, or duck fat vinaigrette) makes for one wonderfully wilted salad. You can also mix any of these fats in your favourite vinaigrette for a meaty backbone, but you'll have to keep some vegetable-based oil (at least half by volume) in the bottle to keep things flowing.