Skip to content

Fat Tubs

May 12, 2014

Food waste is a big problem.

We’ve got crops rotting on farms and in transit, supermarkets dumping massive quantities of still usable food, restaurants tossing heaping piles of unwanted leftovers, and consumers ditching whatever goes past some arbitrary date stamped on a box.

There isn’t a lot you can do about the waste inherent in the system, but that doesn’t get you off the hook. Stop wasting food dammit. If you eat meat, respect the life that was taken and consume every last morsel with joy and appreciation. If you eat vegetables, respect the farmer’s labor and eat the roots, the leaves and the stalks. Should you need ideas of what to do with your leftover bits of food, don’t forget I’m always here to help.

Personally, I always try to save my kale and chard stems. The intent is to saute them with bacon and make a savory bread pudding. But somehow Mrs. Fussy keeps throwing them away. Grr. On the subject of things that Mrs. Fussy hates, have I ever told you about my fat tubs?

When I was a kid I remember eating around the fatty bits of meat I was served at dinner. I wasn’t wise enough at the time to distinguish between the hard chewy gristle and the soft buttery fat. But, oh, that soft buttery fat is the stuff of dreams. Give me a slow cooked piece of fatty brisket, and let me die a happy man.

Sure, there are some health nuts who may disagree, but the secret to delicious food is salt and fat. Lobster meat on its own is sweet and delicious. But it comes alive when it is boiled in heavily salted water and served with drawn butter.

The good news is that there are so many fats that you can cook with. The bad news is that not all of them are readily available in supermarkets.

Fortunately, not only can you make them at home, but they are a happy byproduct of cooking.

Yes, lard is commercially available. But it’s generally from sad tortured pigs. When I picked up a happy piece of locally raised pork belly from whole foods, I roasted that thing in the oven. It came out crisp and delicious and in the bottom of the pan was some gorgeously clear pork fat. Immediately, that went into a small glass tub, got covered with plastic wrap, and stuck into the fridge for later.

When I bought a semi-boneless leg of lamb for Passover, I trimmed that baby well. What happened to the trimmings? Well, I put them in a small rendering pot. A little water, a lid, some low heat, and time were all that was needed to create some glorious liquid lamb fat. Everything that didn’t melt down got nice and crisp. Those crispy bits of lamb fat confit were sprinkled with some Maldon salt and turned into a decadent little snack.

Thanks to a heavy hand sometimes I even pour too much olive oil into things like roasted root vegetables. Recently I had to remove a few tablespoons of fat at the end of the cooking process so that those things would actually brown. That golden liquid was beautifully redolent of the aromatic vegetables, so I figured I would save that in a tub of its own.

The list of magnificent fats seems to be endless. Roast a goose or a duck and you’ll receive a treasure trove of molten joy. Rib roasts release tasty tasty tallow. Break down a whole chicken, remove the skin and fat for your boneless skinless breasts, and you can make schmaltz and gribenes with what some philistines would throw in the trash.

Now, everyone knows that you can use reserved bacon fat to make the best scrambled eggs of your life. But what about these other specimens? Well, you may need to get creative.

Beef tallow used to be the secret ingredient in McDonald’s French fries, but it also is a must for Yorkshire pudding. Pork fat is great for browning onions. I recently heard about duck fat popcorn and lamented its absence in my life. Just yesterday, I cubed up some parboiled potatoes and made some remarkable home fries with a combination of lamb fat and the roasted vegetable olive oil.

If you start collecting these rendered fats, they may soon become your secret ingredients in the kitchen adding unexpected layers of flavor to foods. Plus you can feel virtuous that you aren’t one of those jerks contributing to our collective food waste problem.

Just don’t forget the salt.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 12, 2014 2:46 pm

    I have an embarrassingly large container of bacon drippings in my fridge…it just makes sauteed brussel sprouts so delicious. And eggs. And roasted carrots. And corn bread.

  2. EPT permalink
    May 17, 2014 11:06 am

    I have to agree with you here, there are many fats that can “upgrade” the food you are cooking. When I buy 5 lbs. of chicken thighs I remove the skin and render it. Bacon fat is another value, especially if you bake it in the oven. I haven’t tried lamb fat though which I usually remove from a rack of lamb. BTW has anyone tried the President Butter from Walmart, it’s from France with two ingredients, cream and salt AND you can taste it, extremely good but maybe a bit pricy at 2.80 a half pound BUT really worth it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: