This extravagant possession of a container of duck fat can change your ordinary world. It is the ultimate ingredient of indulgent cooking. It’s unaccountable richness. Its very decadent existence tumbles you into a world of heady enjoyment. Every morsel of food containing duck fat becomes so extraordinary you close you eyes and simply swoon. Combine this with al fresco dining and you have a meal made in heaven.
Ten things I would make with duck fat.
l. I would make duck rilettes. Rich, garlic scented duck rillettes. I would take a bottle of Oyster Bay Chardonnay, some crusty baguettes and the duck rillettes. Husband I would walk down our quiet road to the river. We would watch massive cargo ships churn by, the setting sun turning the water to molten silver.
2. I would plunder the vegetable garden for the tinniest carrots. I would sauté them with cipollini onions in lots of duck fat. I would add a little honey and a pinch of red pepper flakes and slowly cook them until they were fork tender.
3. I would warm a generous amount of duck fat and gradually whisk in a little red wine vinegar and a good dollop of Dijon mustard, some sea salt and a freshly ground black pepper. I would poke around in the herb garden and find the freshest herbs, perhaps a smidge of tarragon. Then I would finely chop shallots and tear the tenderest of spinach leaves or frissee and my salad would be ready.
4. I would dig in the garden for tiniest new potatoes then toss them with duck fat, freshly ground pepper and Himalayan sea salt. I would roast them in a very hot oven and serve them sprinkled with whispers of fresh thyme. The husband would grill a thick steak and cut it into slices. I would set a table in the garden with white linen, crystal and silver and we would dine al fresco.
5. I would shop the farmer’s market searching out the most perfect fennel, then poach wedges of it in a heavy casserole with enough duck fat to cover until meltingly tender and redolent with the sweet aroma of licorice. The ocean is minutes away so the picnic basket would be packed with some crusty bread, tiny lamb chops and a hibachi. We would sip a glass of bubbly and watch the setting sun.
6. I would substitute duck fat for butter and bake delicate buttermilk biscuits. I would slice ham wafer thin and pile it on the biscuits with a little grainy mustard. A bottle of Shiraz and sharp, sweet grapes would go into the picnic basket. My husband I would to the bottom of the butter-cup strewn field at the end of our garden and watch a pair of American Bald Eagles adding an addition to their already enormous nest.
7. I would make fish and chips extraordinaire with perfect fillets of sole. They would be dredged with flour and seasoning. Then I would pan sear them in duck fat until golden-brown. A sprinkle of lemon juice and coarsely chopped Italian parsley the the sole would become perfection on a plate.
8. I would cut sweet potatoes into batons and toss them with duck fat, salt and cayenne pepper. A very hot oven would roast them crisp and tender in a few minutes. I would serve them with the sole fillets. Fish and chips sublime!
9. I would make the perfect midnight snack whisking very fresh eggs – less than 24 hours old – with a little cream, sea salt and freshly ground white pepper. I would melt a little duck fat in a small sauté pan and scramble those eggs to new heights of goodness.
10. And finally and most important I would pack duck rillettes in white ramkins topped with a rich layer of duck fat. I would give them to everyone I love.
It is not the recipe but the heart and soul of the cook that make food taste so divine. The simplest dishes, lovingly prepared to nourish friends and family is what is really important.
(painting Picnic on the Ouse by William Kay Blacklock)