Friday, October 31, 2008
Schmaltz, I'm Bringing it Back.
I recently caught a good deal on some nice poultry and I decided to use some of the fat to make one of the old staple lipids of Jewish cuisine which is, of course, schmaltz (rendered chicken fat). It is one of the great tragedies of our modern calorie conscious food ideology that many of the delicious uses of fat of times gone past have fallen by the wayside. How many of us when roasting a chicken or duck simply pour the fat down the drain? This would have been unthinkable in our not so distant past when we did not have the luxury of wasting calories. This is aside from the fact that we are discarding a delicious substance with many culinary applications. I understand that saturated animal fats are dangerous to ones health and waistline if indulged in to excess, but you are not going to convince me that a little delicious schmaltz is wrong. You need to fortify yourself for these cool New York winters.
I started with two nice medium size chickens-
By the way, I really will never understand why people buy skinless, boneless chicken breasts. I got both of these whole chickens for under 7 dollars. That would probably only get you about 4 boneless breasts anyways and you would not have all the fat, bones, giblets, and other pieces to do so many nice things with. I had it in mind to make a couple soups and stews out of the meat from these chickens, not to roast them. This means that I skinned them and removed any visible fat before butchering the chickens into their component parts. I left the skin on the wings and legs. I salted these heavily and put them in the fridge in preparation for making a nice amount of chicken confit later. For more on the confit process see here - Duck Confit. I will be using much the same process, but in this case I have accumulated near enough chicken fat to omit the lard.
From the rest of the carcasses I was left with a nice heap of skin and fat.
Should I throw this away? Oh, no no. This is the perfect opportunity to make up a nice batch of schmaltz. There are many ways to render poultry fat, but I prefer to boil it.
You chop the skin into nice small pieces and then submerge it in water and bring to a boil. The water will eventually evaporate and the fat will render. You will be left with a delicious amount of liquid yellow chicken fat. I strain it through some muslin to get a nice clarity.
Now, this has a lot of good poultry flavor on its own and if you are planning on using it for confit purposes, this is as far as you may want to go. I am looking to make some nice flavorful schmaltz to use as an ingredient in other dishes so I want to add a little more seasoning. Some time earlier I had made a simple roast chicken, just salt and pepper and into the oven. When this was done I poured that fat through some muslin and reserved. This fat has some nice roasted, seasoned flavor and a couple table spoons of this will do for a cup of raw chicken fat. I like to pour it into small mason jars to store in the refrigerator.
The finished schmaltz has a delicious poultry flavor and will add a little something to a variety of dishes. Fry up some homefries in it, use it to cook an egg, add a little to savory crusts, etc... My favorite way to eat the stuff is both simple and decadent. Toast up a nice piece of your favorite, hearty, whole wheat bread and smear it with a small amount of the schmaltz.
This is simple and delicious. So come on folks, don't waste all of that delicious fat! Don't be scared of a little schmaltz, make up a batch and you will not regret it.