So it’s winter, ie. duck fat season.
A big fan for a while now, I’ve written about duck fat before.
However, then, it was still somewhat of a novelty, my new ‘bacon’ (as in the solution to every difficult game meat or recipe that wasn’t kicking).
I had been cooking with it for many years (confit), but all of a sudden, I was searing meat with it, making pie dough and putting just about anything through the duck fat treatment. I did have a lot of it on hand which is what happens when you do your own butchering. Plus, enlightened about its ‘good fat’ properties, I wanted everyone to embrace it like olive oil and have a tub in their fridges.
A few years later, I am heartened to see duck fat in supermarkets all over, and remain enthusiastic, but it has become as much apart of my daily life as mushrooms are in summer and fall. It’s a cooking fat of mine year round for certain preparations but come winter, it takes on mega importance. With production for the X-mas markets and winter menus, there is duck confit and rillettes, confit rabbit, sausage, cassoulet, tourtiere, foie gras this and that; in other words, duck fat everywhere.. Then comes our duck festival in January, when for a month, I am making all sorts of ducky things up the ying yang; my kitchen and me coated in a thin film of grease, smelling like duck 24/7, and the poor dishwashers have a bitch of a time.
We’re not even there yet, and I already have duck fat burns on my face. What kind of girl or chef has duck fat burns on his/her face? One that is short, sloppy, and overly passionate about duck fat I presume; I might find sympathy on the line at Au Pied de Cochon. Meeting customers or running errands these days, I wish I had a sign posted on my forehead explaining that those red spots aren’t worrisome sores, just duck fat burns for a good cause.
There is no doubt that people love duck (and its fat). During the holiday season, the fervour is at its peak. I made a ton of cassoulet and after one weekend, it has just about disappeared. Our team that is selling was proud to report this; for me, it was like ‘Geez, do you know how much work is involved, please sell something else’. When you’re making your own confit, your own sausage, bacon and ham, it’s something else to make cassoulet. But I know, anything with duck fat (and bacon!) sells big time. And in the end, it is worth it.
Over the years, I’ve come to see that it is a sure-fire way to a man’s heart; perfect to spoil all the men in your life – be it fathers, friends, brothers, neighbours, collegues, suppliers.. Guys just love cassoulet; perhaps the wallop of ribsticking protein and fat satisfies a deeply ingrained craving, genes handed down from their more physically active ancestors.
The scent of duck stock or duck in the oven, confit mode makes people melt any day of the year. It evokes a super-duper chicken soup aroma profile and associate feelings. On a confit day, I know I will have many customers drawn into the kitchen - watch out. Over the years, I’ve learnt how to convert any gastro-phobe out of their stupid bubble with duck fat potatoes or confit, springrolls or anything duck related that they don’t recognize as duck. Duck is magic.
No matter how many hours in the company of duck and its fat, I have never had the ‘I am so out on duck’ thought bubble, even after intense periods with the bird over the years, which says something. It may be my favourite protein. Especially when it comes to Ferme Morgan’s Barbarie. Although I do date other ducks for for foie gras and charcuterie these days, it remains my top pick for an entrée, whole duck or a pan-roasted supreme - so lean, tasty and tender even cooked medium rare to medium. I’m not a big meat eater, but somehow, I never tire of duck. Mushrooms before duck, believe it or not.
All to say, I’m ready for the duck fat season, burns and all.
And the cross country skiing that goes along with it.