Fried herbs can add texture, flavour, and colour to mashed potatoes, casseroles, and stuffing, but preciously frying little leaves in hot oil is not a task most people want to add to their turkey day to-do list. But if you have an air fryer, you can crisp up a whole bunch of these super savoury bacon fat sage leaves in about three minutes.
I originally planned to coat my seasonally appropriate leaves with cooking spray, but the canister I purchased (just this morning!) refused to perform as advertised, sputtering when it should have sprayed. Instead of giving up (or going back to the store), I decided to dip into my bacon grease reserve. I tossed the sage leaves in about a teaspoon of melted fat, letting them soak up the salty grease. I then seasoned them with MSG and white pepper and popped them in the drawer of my air fryer for two minutes until they were crisp and fragrant.
Forget garnishing: These leaves are a snack unto themselves. (I ate about 10 bacon fat sage leaves like they were potato chips, and I’ll do it again.) They’re crispy, salty, and (thanks to the combo of MSG and meaty grease) packed with a ton of umami. Though I could eat a whole bowl, unaccompanied and unadorned, I cannot wait to crumble them on mashed potatoes.
Air fried — or, excuse me “tiny table-top convention oven’d” — bacon fat sage leaves can be whipped up in about three minutes, but you are somewhat limited by the size of your air fryer’s basket. You want to keep the leaves in a single layer, though some of them will blow around a little bit while they cook, because they are leaves, and leaves tend to blow around when confronted with a strong breeze.
If you have a tiny air fryer like mine, you can batch these bad boys very easily, as (once again) they only take about three minutes, start to finish. You can even make them ahead of time; just store them in an air-tight container with a paper towel in between each leafy layer.
To make crispy bacon sage leaves, you will need:
- Fresh sage leaves, as many as you want
- Bacon grease, about a teaspoon per 6-10 leaves (Sage leaves vary in size quite a bit, err on the side of extra grease.)
- White pepper
Pluck your fresh sage off of the stem, and rinse the leaves in cold water if you think they need cleaning (I usually just brush mine off with a paper towel). If you wash yours, dry them completely on paper towels before proceeding.
Once you have a store of clean, dry sage leaves, place them in a mixing bowl and drizzle melted (but not hot) bacon grease on top, tossing them with your hands to coat. The sage will readily soak up the grease, and feel greasy to the touch. Season each leaf with generous sprinklings of MSG and white pepper, then cook them in a single layer for two minutes in an air fryer set to 200 degrees Celsius. Serve immediately as a garnish (or leafy snack), or store in an air-tight container at room temperature (with paper towels in between each layer of sage) until you’re ready to use them.