Tips, tricks, and tools of the trade: Kitchen Hacks is a series of posts aimed at giving your culinary skills a little more swagger. These are the trade secrets and flashes of kitchen brilliance picked up along a life behind the line.
Have you ever cooked so much bacon that there was an indecent amount of rendered fat left in the pan when you finished? Well, I just did, and after years of watching my mother dutifully pour those drippings into a jar we kept under the sink – to be thrown away at a later date – I just couldn’t bring myself to repeat that process. Call it a guilty conscience (waste not, want not) or better yet, an epiphany, but I strained off the solids, cooled what poured through and now I have a rather gorgeous-looking jar of solid bacon fat.
Treat this as you would butter or cooking oil – use it for anything you can imagine would be improved by a little smokey flavor. Here are some of my favorite ideas:
Frying or scrambling eggs for breakfast
Stirring into grits – or frying an egg in bacon fat and stirring that into grits
Sauteing some shrimp to toss on a salad
Frying sage leaves or rosemary to top polenta
Returning it to a liquified state and using it to make a vinaigrette
Slathering over a whole chicken or under the skin before roasting, adding just a few grinds of cracked pepper
Softening cubes of butternut squash in the fat in a sauté pan, maybe with a little garlic – then wilting some chopped swiss chard and tossing it all together with whole wheat farfalle. A mountain of parmiggiano reggiano is optional but recommended.
And I love the idea of using it to wilt kale; the sheer audacity of besmirching the virtuous green.
The joy of imagining all the possibilities is second only to eating whatever you come up with, and what’s more: if you run out of bacon fat, all you need to do is eat more bacon. Not a bad situation to be in.
Have a hack you’d like to share? Leave it in the comments!