- Food and Cooking
Think Outside the Fat
Whether baking, frying, roasting, or generally any facet of cookery, there is fat involved. As an ingredient or as a by-product. For any meat dish, the fat is where the flavour is concentrated. Muscle is bland. Fat is flavour. Simply put, a lot of dishes would be balls without the fat.
Not going to bore anybody with the chemical details (however, for those of you who would care to, just wiki it - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fat). Suffice to say that we need it. We want it. Jump on the bacon bandwagon. Of course you will be reviled by the gym bag toting segment of the population, but I guarantee you eat better.
Anyway, the point of this is two-fold. Fat is flavour. And for the most part, fat is INTERCHANGEABLE. Key word. Recipe calls for butter? Try bacon fat. Fry it in vegetable oil? Try duck. Try a roux with animal fat instead of oil or butter. Or nut and seed oils if you're of the vegetarian persuasion. Every ingredient of a dish should add to the flavour, not just be a means to an end. Possibilities are endless, and there is the possibility that some things may not work out as expected, but the happy accident odds are well over 50%. So play with your fat!
A couple of things we need to touch on: the properties of fat, and the acquisition of fat. Every fat can take only a certain amount of heat before it becomes balls. We refer to this as the smoke point. A low smoke point fat is not a good frying medium, and a high smoke point fat is generally not a good baking fat. If you are using rendered fat (animal fat which has been heated so the fat becomes liquid), then you are going to want to remove the solids. A coffee filter and a chinoise (which is a fine mesh strainer) is a good way to remove any bits of animal left after rendering. These will burn on high heat. A good general example of this is clarified butter. Heating the butter separates the milk solids from the fat. The solids will burn almost instantaneously on high heat, but clarified butter can hold it's own. And it still tastes like butter - unless you burn it during the clarification process. Again, you can google or wiki any fat you are dealing with to find out it's smoke point. (ex. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoke_point)
Acquiring your fat. Buy it (a few specialty stores will carry duck fat or even bacon fat, or any weird and wonderful nut and seed oils. Try to stay away from the infused ones unless you're making salad dressing.) Harvest it. Cooking bacon? Strain the fat and keep it in the fridge. As long as you're straining out the solids, it should last a month or so in the fridge. But most of you won't have it that long. Harvest everything. Beef fat from roasts, duck fat, basically whatever animal you cook will leave you with some form of love as a by-product. Play with things. Pretty sure those bacon chocolate chip cookies will be the best thing ever. Definitely not balls.