Skinny Girls Eat Fat

September 21, 2012

I eat as much bacon as I want as long as I’m spending the rest of the day with my work boots on.

My mother is the kind of person who will look at bowl of Marcona almonds glistening under a heavy coat of oil and a generous sprinkling of salt and say, “I can’t eat those..too greasy.”

I did not inherit the “too greasy” gene from her. I think instead that I may take after my grandfathers. My one grandfather would ask for his pound of beef tongue at the deli counter “extra fatty” – a mythic request given that the “less fatty” beef tongue was already a heart-buster. My other grandfather poured half-and-half in his cereal instead of regular or (gasp!) skim milk. I recall him putting half-and-half in his ginger ale too.

Have you ever had a bowl of Raisin Bran with half-and-half? Quite the gorgeous (and fatty) treat.

Yes, when it shines, when it glistens, when it marbles, when it melts hot and solidifies cold, when some part of its name includes the word “belly” and when every doctor on the planet tells you it will eventually kill you, I want to eat it.

A fatty duck breast seared to a crisp in, yes, fat.

Fatty bacon. Fatty tuna. Fatty prosciutto. Fatty goose. Fatty duck. Fatty salumi.

Yes, I love fat.

You’ve got to love a foodstuff called, simply, Lardo.

I put thin slices of Lardo on toast or slap a layer of it on top of a roasting chicken.

What’s a country morning without an egg fried in bacon fat?

The secret weapon in The Muddy Kitchen: pancetta.

When Keith brings over a few chunks of his freshly killed venison, or a bit of the wild turkey who had the misfortune of roaming through his backyard, I’ll stare down at those sorry slabs of my neighbor’s free-roaming, marble-less animal meat and remember that fat is a precious and rare stuff. It’s a true ‘all-natural’ preservative. It makes you full. It makes you warm. It makes the food taste better.

Painfully devoid of any marbling, venison takes a beating at our house.

I think I learned my true reverence for the material when I first made duck confit from Judy Rodger’s six-page recipe-cum-treatise on the subject in The Zuni Cookbook. Buying duck legs was no problem – I went into Chinatown and paid just a few dollars a pound to take home bags of the plump dark nether-parts of recently plucked Pekin ducks.

But I had to travel far and wide to find the fat to cook it in (about 5-6 lbs). D’artagnan sells a dainty few ounces for about $5.99! If I wanted to drive an hour, I’d found a guy who’d sell me a few 5lb bags of the raw material, but I’d have to render it myself – a slightly dangerous and highly messy all-day project.

In the end I bought a frozen bucketful from my local market for about five times the price of the duck itself. I used and reused this precious stuff – through rounds of (fatty) graisserons, (fatty) duck, and (fatty) pork and gizzard confit.

I respect fat. I pay a lot for it. I’m thankful to have the good fortune of having it at the ready.

And then I fry something to a shattering crisp.

If you love fat and fatty bits, you should absolutely get the The Zuni Cafe Cookbook and spend the winter ticking off Judy’s fat-centric recipes. I make confit in batches of 12 legs but working with 4 is an easier way to wrap your head around the process. Whipping up 12 legs of confit is truly a daunting task. While confit is the ultimate fast food once it’s done, making it is not for the faint of heart.


Serves: 4 (or 2 people twice)

4 whole duck legs (legs and thighs attached)
1/3 oz (approximately 2 tsp) sea salt per pound of meat
rendered duck fat, at least 2 cups of fat per pound of meat

1. Rinse the legs well and pat dry, trimming off any ragged edges of skin or fat (save these up in the freezer for making duck cracklings later). Salt the legs all over, a little more on the thick parts and less on the bony legs. Leave no bit unsalted. Arrange the legs in a single layer in a wide glass, ceramic, or stainless container, skin side down. Refrigerate for 18 to 24 hours.

2. Rinse the legs well, one at a time, under cold running water. Massage with your fingers; the flesh should feel firm. Dry the rinsed legs on a clean towel and pat dry. Test for saltiness by trimming off a bit of meat and simmering it in duck fat for 5 minutes. If it tastes too salty, rinse and dry each leg again. Place the legs on a very clean plate and rest at room temperature for an hour covered with plastic wrap.

3. Heat the fat until warm but definitely not bubbling, then add the duck legs to the warm fat. Choose the smallest pot that will fit your duck, to reduce the amount of fat you’ll need. If needed, add (yes!) more fat to submerge the legs completely. Heat the fat and legs to just below a simmer (200°F is perfect).

4. Stand by to adjust the heat, maintaining a steady temperature. Cook for a least an hour and maybe up to two. The meat should feel soft, like a roast chicken, but not falling off the bone.

5. When the meat is done, allow to sit undisturbed for 20 to 30 minutes. Using your mad tong-skills, gently lift the legs out and transfer to a glass or ceramic container, trying not to tear the skin or to disturb the liquid on the bottom of the pot beneath the fat. Skim the fat , and ladle it through a fine-mesh strainer over the cooked legs, again taking care not to disturb the gel at the bottom of the pot. Cover the meat completely — depending on the size of your storage container, you may need to melt more fat — and cool to room temperature.

6. Cover the container well, then refrigerate for at least three days to a week before using. I, in a very messy and unexplainable fashion, transfer my confit 2 legs at a time into FoodSaver bags, making sure each leg is totally surrounded in fat. I put the packs in the bottom drawer of my fridge and use throughout the year. In my experience, confit tastes the most gorgeous after at least three months.

*Yummy duck confit photo courtesy of Burnt Lumpia

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }


Although I ADORE bacon, I am commenting on another bit of your post. Whenever as a child I ate cereal at a friend’s house, I could never understand why it wasn’t as good as at my own house. It turned out that my mom, Julie Beach, put half & half in our cereal! Omg! Raisin Bran never compares to this day with anything else!


Jennifer Solow

I had the opposite experience.

All my life I had Weight Watcher’s margarine on toast. It never knew there was anything else. I was nearly in college and with John Beach when I first tasted BUTTER on toast. OMG! Where had butter been all my life?

Your mom knew what she was doing…whether she knew it or not!



I love confiting pork belly in duck fat. I worked at a place that would braise the pork belly in duck then deep fry it then coat it in pork glaze. Awesome!!!


Jennifer Solow

You worked ‘belly’ and ‘deep fry’ and ‘glaze’ into a sentence. That’s my kind of sentence, Cara!

We may die young, but we’ll die happy!



I love fat! Lol
Confit duck is one of my favourite things. I love it with roast potatoes and butter beans cooked with lots of garlic, then sprinkled with chopped parsley… Yum!
It is only 06:00 am here, but now I fancy confit duck! 😀


Jennifer Solow

6:00 a.m. I declare it confit time!


Jennifer Solow

A correction came by email from my Auntie:

“…daddy used the top cream from the glass bottles the milkman left in the box on our porch. it was thick……not half anything….those doused grapenuts, over berries and, yes, Vernors ginger ale.”



Confited duck is a thing of beauty but everyone is scared of stuff like that these days, preferring their calories in the form of sugar, sugar and more sugar (those cinema and fast food drink sizes you have in the US are well freaky). We would all have a better time and be less grumpy if we ate fat and skewered excess sugar, with its insulin roller coaster ride. As for lardo – love it wrapped around rabbit and slow-cooked with rosemary potatoes. Too bad I am having tofu for dinner. Seriously!


Jennifer Solow

Love it, Kellie! Thanks for the rabbit tip! My husband and I were just talking to the rabbit guy at our farmer’s market. We’ve been craving it but it’s so leeeeean. Now I have an idea! Lardo!



Ok, I’m sold. This will be the winter of fat and confit-ing. It was the summer of homemade ice cream. This fall is all about the apple dumpling. After a long winter dripping with fat, I fear it will be the spring of the moo-moo. I guess i’ll take my chances. Thanks for sharing, this post made me ravenously hungry.



Love this 🙂 I eat bacon weekly, have for years.


Tooty Frooty

Love me my fatty fats….in high school after the final bell we would walk en masse to the local mom and pop shop for after school snacks. While others were buying wax lips, slim Jim’s, red licorice or a bottle of soda I went for the pint of heavy / whipping cream. O ya mmm mm


Jennifer Solow

I like to think of that sort of thing, Tooty, as storing up for making the boobs yet to appear. I had those kind of creamy cravings as a kid and when I was pregnant with Tallulah. And NOW look at us!

Who needs silicone when there are pints of whipped cream out there waiting for adoption.


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