So, who knew that duck fat was the most amazing thing ever? I sort of did, I guess. Whenever we eat duck confit at home, it comes from a can. It’s amazingly good, and if I make fried potatoes as a side (which I try not to do, because it’s kind of overkill, but I still do it from time to time because they go exceptionally well together…), I always snatch up a little bit of the duck fat to cook them in. But I never thought about trying to save it for other uses, or actually render it from duck thighs instead of trimming and just throwing it away. We made duck a while back in school, and I asked the chef if I could bring the fat home. He was all for it, so I collected the trimmings from my other colleagues and cooked it down until the fat had separated from the bones and skin and other inedible bits, filtered it and brought it home.
I of course knew that potatoes would be first up on my list. I also sautéed some zucchini and other vegetables, each tasty in their own way, but potatoes definitely take the cake. Something about the two flavors makes magic happen. The fat not only brings a lot of flavor, but seems to help crisp the potatoes better than olive oil or even butter. It doesn’t seem to burn easily, so the heat can be turned up high. A cast iron skillet helps to form the perfect, brown crust and the potatoes are finished off in the oven.
Potatoes fried in duck fat
Salt and pepper
This is clearly a recipe that is not really a recipe. Fried potatoes can be made several different ways, so I guess I’ll talk a little bit about that. Potatoes are notoriously difficult to cook using one single method, i.e. just frying them or just baking them. How many times have I made a gratin in the oven and pulled it out an hour later only to find that my thinly sliced potatoes weren’t all the way cooked? When I make hashbrowns, I blanch the potatoes for a few minutes before shredding them and finish them in a skillet. With these potatoes, I prefer to cut them not too thin, fry them first, then finish them off in the oven. I used to blanch then first as well, but find that even though the starch has boiled away, blanched potatoes tend to be a bit slimy and don’t crisp up as well. They also tend to stick to the pan.
So… Here is my new and improved method for frying potatoes, in duck fat! Using a cast iron skillet if possible, heat 3-4 tablespoons of duck fat over medium-high heat. You’ll want the fat to be nice and hot but not smoking. I usually preheat my fat for almost five minutes. While the fat’s heating up, prepare your potatoes. Remove the skin if you like, and cut them into 1/3 inch thick rounds. Place the round in a colander and rinse them off when you’re done to remove the excess starch. Pat them dry and place them in the skillet once the fat is hot. Season with salt and pepper. Preheat your oven to 350°.
Now, the *hard* part. Don’t touch them. At all. For at least five minutes. You’ll want a crust to form on the potatoes before you start flipping them over. Moving them around too much can interfere with the browning process and cause them to stick. Once a nice crust has formed, flip them over however you can and continue cooking for 5-8 minutes longer. If you’re adding pesto, or garlic, you can add it now and cook for an additional minute or two before before placing the skillet in the oven.
Here’s the other hard part: I can’t tell you how long to cook the potatoes. I could be that some of the thinner rounds are nearly cooked when they go in the oven and you may only need five more minutes. You may, however, need 15. My best advice is to check them every five minutes or so, piercing one with a knife (the thickest one you can find!). If the potato slides off the knife, they’re done. If it doesn’t, you should keep cooking. Once they’re done, if you’re using parsley, now would be the time to toss it in. Serve right away.