Remember when WOW chips first came out? Do they still even make WOW chips? I was a student living in Savannah at the time (late 1990s), and my landlady was the first to tell me about them. My landlady, Alice, was a loud Southern character who grew up on an old plantation outside of town. She was very skeptical of foreigners and non-Southerners (once calling a Chinese student That Chinaman), but decided I must okay because my Dad was born in Mississippi. She mostly talked to me about food and dieting. One afternoon she treated her tenants to a cookout and brought over several bags of this new WOW potato chip, then spent the rest of the afternoon yakking my ear off about how wonderful they were because even though she considered them “diet food”, they were just like a greasy potato chip, and Alice was all about the greasy potato chip. So I’m sitting there listening to her and eating WOW chips by the ton, and I started to agree with her. Those things didn’t taste half bad! But as the afternoon wore on, my stomach started to feel a bit odd, and later that evening I found myself in the bathroom a whole hell of a lot. I won’t take you down that visual of a road, but let's just say that it wasn’t until the next morning that I saw the warning label on the side of the bag that announced to no one in particular that said chips could potentially cause you to have a case of what my friend Patty calls The Dire Rear. Good times.
Anyway, all that to tell you that if you want a chip, eat a real chip. I mean, how often does a person eat chips anyway? (Ok don’t answer that question). It’s the same for me at Starbucks. I never go to Starbucks anymore; but if I do, and if I happen to order a Mocha, why on earth would I order it fat free and with no whipped cream? Why deny myself the simple pleasures of life? It’s not like I’m downing Mochas every day. Everything in moderation. You have to balance it all out. Yin and yang. You catch my drift.
Duck fat is one of those things that should be eaten in moderation. It’s also one of those “simple pleasures of life” that I hold right up there with clean sheets, eating an Oreo that’s been dunked into a very cold glass of milk, and riding a bike with no hands (look Ma!).
You can purchase duck fat or obtain your own by slowly cooking a duck on low heat. It’s kind of hard to find a place that will sell the fat raw unless you’re super friendly with your butcher (you can find it rendered and packaged ready to go via Froogle, but frankly i'm a bit skeptical of that finished product). The average grocery store will not carry it. In Atlanta we have this wonderful institution called the Dekalb County Farmers Market, and they sell it there. They also sell pig fat for those days you get a hankerin for some rillettes.
So what exactly is confit? The general definition is a duck (or goose, or piece of pig) cooked very slowly in its own fat, then stored in the same fat used to cook it in. A newer definition of the word describes confit to be a vegetable or fruit cooked to a jam-like consistency; if you watch Top Chef you’ll have noticed the chefs like to throw that one around a lot. But I’m not talking vedge here, I’m talking duck.
Duck fat by itself is a wonderous thing and will freeze beautifully. I’m not sure how long it’ll stick around in the fridge, I’ve seen reports varying from two months to whenever. I lean on the side of whenever. Fats were used as a preservative back in the old days before refrigeration, so I’ve no trouble keeping a container of it around in the fridge to have handy.
Earlier this summer, the boy and I made the pilgrimage to DCFM; since it isn’t exactly la porte à coté, we make the most of these trips and stock up on all kinds of dried goods and spices. The main reason for our trip, though, was to secure some duck fat and buy a duck or two, as we were making duck confit. I could bore you with the details of what we did to render out the fat, but instead I’ll direct you to the Very Excellent blog Sugarlaws, which demonstrates it and shows gorgeous photos of goldeny goodness.
so now we have containers of duck fat in the fridge and freezer to have around for when you need a tablespoon or two of it. To use in what, you say? How about some fried potatoes? Or as my friend Darrel likes to call them, Fancy Duck Taters.
In order to get your taters to be Ducked and Fancied, you will need to start by par-boiling some potatoes until they are nearly cooked all the way through, then let them cool. how many potatoes per person? that depends on your appetite. one medium sized Yukon should yield enough fries to serve one person, but if you're a glutton or just simply really enjoy fries, i would err on the side of More Potato.
Add some of your rendered and saved duck fat to frying pan or large skillet. You’ll need enough to coat the bottom of the pan, plus a couple of tablespoons. Turn the burner on high, then when the fat has melted and is hot enough , kick it back down to medium-high. An old trick to figuring out if the oil (or fat in this case) is hot enough is to stick the handle of a wooden spoon straight down in it, and if bubbles form around the spoon, then it’s ready.
You can do a test run, like we did in these pictures, by frying up a few potato slices to see if the fat is hot enough; and besides it’s nice to have some fries to snack on while the main batch are cooking away. Slide your potato slices into the fat and cook, occasionally basting them with the fat. When they are crispy brown on one side (this should take a few minutes), flip them over to cook on the other side.
When the potatoes are golden brown on both sides, remove them from the fat and place them onto one of those wire cooling racks you use for baking that you’ve placed over a cookie sheet and sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. If you don’t have one of these cooling racks, you could use a paper towel-lined bowl and toss the potatoes around, salting and peppering liberally.
We ate these with a spatchcocked chicken (otherwise known as butterflied chicken or chicken-under-a-brick, which we’ve made here and here).
We don’t eat this way every day, in fact I’d say for obvious reasons, you shouldn’t eat potatoes cooked this way very often. Remember that whole “Everything in moderation thing”? however, the side effects of these potatoes are quite the opposite from WOW chips: a case of the full and happy belly. No Dire Rear here.