Duck Fat Fondue

This is a recipe of sorts, but perhaps it’s better described as a manifesto: Get Good Duck. Canada is in the process of going “full duck.” This headlines from The Globe and Mail says it all, “Canadian duck producers to double output to meet growth in demand.”

Canada has always been duck territory, along with goose, it’s a prime element of Quebec’s foie gras industry. The French and Chinese are both known for their duck cuisine, and now there’s, “the arrival of immigrants from duck-eating countries such as Russia and the Czech Republic.” (From above article).

Duck is a prominent local protein.

There are millions of ways to eat duck. I used to work at a restaurant that had smoked local duck breast on hand, and I always suggested customers put it on their burgers. The burger was rich, and so were the customers. But it’s not all about the meat.  

This dish belongs to Ms. Kelly Kan, and it started as a fundamental concept: duck fat is delicious.

Kelly came from a home where there wasn’t a lot of bread, but her mother was a fan. When bread did show up, the family often enjoyed it with olive oil instead of butter.

Fast forward many years. She’s now living in Toronto with a husband from Quebec. Occasionally they’d travel to visit his family in the French Provence, and there she’d find reasonably inexpensive duck fat by the tub. Kelly, long a fan of confit, made it part of her ritual to pick up tubs of the stuff while visiting.

One time she was confiting some onions and put it aside. Her husband had recently started a regular ritual of attending the local banya (Russian bathhouse). While relaxing his crew would share drinks and food brought from home. The confit onions were sent along to be treated like seasoned olive oil, as a bread dip. By the end of the night, entire sandwiches were being dipped into the casserole dish of confit. It was a solid hit, and “Duck Fat Fondue” became legend.

The reality is that pretty much anything can go into this dish, but Kelly’s standard has developed is as follows…

Enough cut onions to fill the majority of a one-quart casserole dish. The recommended cut is latitudinal half-circles so that the onion breaks down, becomes reasonably incorporated, yet remains just stringy enough for strands in every bite.

About a dozen or so garlic cloves kept whole. No crushing or dicing. A whole clove is a delicious prize.

About three sprigs of fresh rosemary. Then heavily season the lot with several (two or three) large pinches of salt, and generous amounts of fresh ground black pepper. Almost more than seems appropriate.

300g rendered duck fat. I recommend buying Canadian, but be aware that Canada has some labeling issues. Hungarian producers have flooded the Canadian market with various processed duck parts, labeled Canadian, merely because they’re processed here. The product we used is Brome Lake, a Quebec company which is also Canada’s oldest processor of the Pekin variety of duck.

425 degrees F for 45 minutes. Start with a covered dish, so that everything to breaks down and melds together. Take off the cover half-way through to boost caramelization.

Kelly’s favorite variation on the above uses tomatoes and with something high-sugar like that she usually pops it in for 30 minutes, and sometimes knocks the temperature down to 400.

It’s that simple.

You don’t have to worry about eating this at its hottest. Animal fats have a range of temperatures at which they’re more liquid or more solid, and duck fat liquifies at around 57 degrees Fahrenheit, as opposed to, say, pork fat which liquifies at approximately 86 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that even at the coolest end of the human room temperature spectrum (about 59 degrees) duck fat behaves more like oil than a congealed fat.

This dish is ridiculously tasty, easy, and versatile. Anything can be dipped in it, and leftovers can be used to cook pretty much anything else. It’s a dip. It’s a dressing. It’ll preserve your vegetables and animal products.

Duck Fat Fondue: It’s a winner.

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