VOLUME 16 ... LET'S TALK FAT

FEATURING EZRA TITLE, chezvousdining.ca

 

Nothing elevates the taste of a gourmet dish like pure unadulterated fat. We're not quite sure at what point our health-conscious society turned into a fat-fearing society... but we - as in an organic butcher shop that professes healthy eating and healthy living day-in and day-out - are hear to say, neh, scream out to our customers "don't fear good fat!"  Why is it that the French can enjoy as part of their regular diet triple crčme camembert on buttery brioche, duck confit, and the richest pâté imaginable, yet have population obesity levels that are a fraction of North America's? Well, the answer to the so-called French paradox, as scientists have coined it over the years, is simple. The French portions are smaller than the super-sized varieties we are used to. Eat less, eat in moderation, and enjoy life! It's all about balance.

 

And on that note, we knew that the best person to shed light on the feared topic of fat is Chef Ezra Title. Chef Ezra, who once gracefully served our customers as The Healthy Butcher's Executive Chef, now owns and operates ChezVous Dining. He uses locally grown, fresh ingredients for the ultimate in-your-home catering experience. For more information on turning your dining room into a five-star restaurant, contact ChezVous at: http://www.chezvousdining.ca or email Ezra directly at ezra@chezvousdining.ca.

Without further ado, let's talk fat.

continued below

 

 

EASTER ORDERS

This year, both Christian and Orthodox Easter fall on April 8.  That means double-demand for special roasts, so order early to avoid disappointment.  Are you thinking of ordering lamb, but are confused with your options?  Click here to read our Breaking Down the Lamb newsletter for an explanation of cuts of lamb.

Our Easter Hours:  Thurs Apr 5 10-to-7
Fri Apr 6 CLOSED
Sat Apr 7 10-to-6 (Easter orders pick-up day)
Sun Apr 8 CLOSED
Mon Apr 9 CLOSED

 

PASSOVER ORDERS

 First & Second Seder fall on Monday, April 2 and Tuesday April 3.  We are closed on Monday, so plan to pick up orders on Sunday April 1.   Briskets will undoubtedly be sold out, so order early!

 

LIVE TO EAT CLASSES

New classes planned for April

 

A perfect gift for your foodie. 

Click here for details of classes in April

 

April 19 - Intro to Butchering 103 - Lamb & Venison
April 25 - Making Great Sausages
 

 

 

VOLUME 16 ... LET'S TALK FAT

FEATURING EZRA TITLE, chezvousdining.ca

 

INTRODUCTION

Any foodie will tell you that the secret ingredient for any recipe, whether it's a simple chocolate chip cookie or an elaborate cassoulet, is love. I learned this from my first culinary inspiration, Mom, and from every subsequent chef/mentor thereafter. What I have grown to understand and subsequently pass on to young cooks and anybody else who will listen is that love is another word for fat. All right, maybe not all of the time. But usually there is no substitute for a little fat to elevate your cooking from "everyday" to "special day". Fat makes pastries crisp and light. Fat makes burgers juicy. Fat gives pâté its smooth texture. And fat balances out the acid in vinaigrettes. As long as it is used appropriately and the quality is superb, we can have our cake (or steak) and eat it too. So let's separate fat from fiction and try to digest the different uses for many of the different varieties of fat that are available to us.

OLIVE OIL

Since the eighties and the rise in popularity of Mediterranean cuisine, the use of olive oil has exploded in our kitchens. Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fats, which is believed to help reduce the risk of heart disease. It is also low in saturated fats, which is good news for our LDL cholesterol levels. Health and nutrition aside, when used properly olive oil can be delicious on its own or it can add a flavour component to food that is unmatched by other oils. However, in order to get the most out of your oil, it is important to understand the differences between extra virgin, pure, and premium olive oil.

Extra Virgin

Oil that has been extracted from the first pressing of olives using a cold press without chemicals is given the designation "extra virgin". It has a distinct olive flavour and aroma. Its colour ranges from bright yellow to deep green. In my cooking extra virgin olive oil is used for vinaigrettes, marinades, confits, sauces, and extremely gentle cooking.

So what type of cooking do I do with extra virgin olive? I make a chopped, marinated salad with five to ten different vegetables that gets cooked at a very low temperature to concentrate flavors and soften the texture. Then I remove the vegetables from the pan and marinate them in red wine vinegar and lemon juice while they are still warm. As the veggies cool, they soak up the acid and vinegar and you are left with a fresh, crunchy salad with instant dressing. Sometimes I add Ewenity Dairy's Sheep's Milk Feta and serve it alongside The Healthy Butcher's delicious lamb. Other times I fold in some chopped endive and radiccio to be served with some juicy slices of Vacio steak.

Do not, I repeat, do not cook at high temperatures with extra virgin olive oil. You know the saying, "if you can't take the heat..."? It was created specifically for extra virgin olive oil. Why? Because extra virgin olive oil has a very low smoking point (the temperature at which a fat begins to break down when heated) which causes it to burn and results in an off flavour in your food. As my sister-in-law says: "Maybe I'm not such a bad cook after all. I've just been using the wrong oil." I guess it's possible. The moral of the story? Extra virgin olive oil is NOT all-purpose. Use it judiciously and your cooking will automatically taste better.

Pure

When I am teaching cooking classes my students learn the differences between extra virgin and pure olive oil. Let's set the record straight since this is an important fat fact! Pure olive oil is extra virgin that is added to processed or refined olive oil. It does not have the same intense olive flavour and it usually has a vibrant yellow tint. But is it inferior to extra virgin? I prefer to say that pure olive oil takes over where extra virgin should not venture. For example, I cook with pure olive oil. I do not sear meats with pure, but I do roast and sautée vegetables.

Another great use for pure olive oil has less to do with flavour and more to do with economics. Chefs are a notoriously "thrifty" bunch. On your next shopping excursion, check out the price of pure olive oil versus extra virgin. It is usually priced 30 to 50% cheaper. So if you want to save a few bucks (and who doesn't?) try this out for size. When making an emulsified vinaigrette start by whisking extra virgin olive into your vinegar as you normally would do. When you have added approximately half of your usual amount, taste the mixture. If you have captured the flavour of extra virgin, finish your vinaigrette with pure olive oil. Essentially, you are using extra virgin for flavour and bulking up with pure. Then you can use the savings to add an expensive Parmiggiana Reggiano, or black truffles, or gold shavings... Whatever you decide, it is money in your pocket.

Premium Extra Virgin

Premium Extra Virgin olive oil is extra virgin's richer cousin. It is the stuff that is usually bottled in something small and fancy and sealed with a cork. It is more expensive, tastes better and should not be wasted in vinaigrettes or marinades. A beautiful extra virgin olive oil is meant to be savoured on its own as a dip or perhaps drizzled on some beautiful local, baby greens or perfect Buffalo mozzarella. Never, ever cook with it and try not to mask its flavour with too many competing ingredients.

ANIMAL FAT

 

While some consumers may turn their backs on animal fats as a viable ingredient due to health concerns or dietary restrictions, there is no denying that lard, duck fat, beef suet and a whole host of other animal fats play an important role in the culinary world. In fact, just walk into The Healthy Butcher and head straight for the meat case where you will find most of them available for purchase. I know from experience that people like their fats because they truly fly off the shelves. But with so many options, how does one know which variety to purchase? Or more specifically, what does one do with a pint of lard or duck fat? Mmmmm... duck fat.

 

Beef Suet & Tallow

 

Suet is the hard fatty tissues around the kidneys and loins of cattle and sheep. Tallow is rendered suet that is commercially produced by heating large quantities under extreme pressure. Suet is classically used to make mincemeats, stuffings, and puddings (usually by the British). Back in the day, an un-McMentioned fast food chain mixed beef tallow with vegetable oil to fry their distinctively flavoured French fries. After complaints from healthy conscious consumers they removed the tallow and instead added beef flavouring to the potatoes.

 

Some of the best fries I have ever eaten were fried in grass-fed beef tallow. Like many Healthy Butcher customers already know, grass-fed beef is lower in saturated fat and higher in Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E and beta-carotene than grain- or corn-fed beef. Were these french fries "good for you"? Probably not, but the quality of beef tallow used to fry the potatoes was much better than conventional beef fat and their flavour was incredible.

 

Lard

 

"Pork fat rules!" Emeril screams this eloquent cheer on the Food Network regularly, and the truth of the matter is - he's not completely wrong. For certain purposes in the kitchen, you can't beat pork fat. It has an amazing ability to keep roasts, pâtés, and terrines astonishingly moist. The Healthy Butcher's signature porchetta is wrapped in pork fat and skin which allows the roast to cook at a low temperature without drying out.

 

Nearly all of the terrines I make contain fatback (or back fat as it is often called), the layer of fat along the back of the pig. Whether I am making a duck, squab, or wild boar terrine, I mix fatback with the other ingredients and grind them together. Often I will also slice the fatback extremely thin and wrap it around the terrine. Both of these techniques ensure that the terrine does not dry out during the cooking process. Bacon can be similarly used to keep leaner cuts of pork or beef, such as a filet mignon, moist.

 

Another common use for pork fat is baking. Lard is pork fat that has been rendered. It is the preferred shortening for many chefs and home cooks as it tends to produce a flakier crust than butter - and it's healthier than butter! Pork lard is free of trans-fatty hydrogenation, and contains just 40% saturated fat (vs. 60% for butter), while its level of mono-unsaturated fat (the good stuff) is an admirable 45% (twice that of butter).

 

Lard is also eaten in various parts of the world as a spread. I distinctly remember Mario and Tara returning from their vacation in Poland and telling everybody that lard was placed on the table at every restaurant instead of butter. I get chest pains just thinking about it. But lard has definitely come back into gastronomic fashion. Mario Batali is famous for his lardo, cured fatback that he drapes over grilled bread with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. I melt The Healthy Butcher's homemade Lardo - with hints of juniper modeled after the famous Italian Lardo from Valle D'Aosta - over a white crusty bread and drizzle truffle oil...  heavenly. It is difficult to walk into a restaurant these days and not find braised pork belly on the menu. Why? Because the fatty belly and the crisped skin is almost irresistible. All of this is very good news for consumers and pigs alike. We're getting back to our roots and using a greater share of the pig. Less waste is created and we are finding interesting preparations for everything, from head to tail, and even the fat.

 

Duck Fat

 

I don't really like duck fat... I LOVE duck fat. It has an unmistakable flavour and aroma and when it's mixed with thyme, rosemary and garlic I get the warm fuzzies. Duck fat is widely used in French cuisine, in addition to butter and olive oil. Duck confit is duck legs that are cured and subsequently cooked in duck fat at an extremely low temperature. This technique is employed to slowly break down the tough, sinewy muscle fibers of the duck legs. An authentic cassoulet contains white beans, duck confit, Toulouse sausage and anywhere from five to thirty other ingredients, depending on the chef. In my opinion, the most important step in the making of a great cassoulet is the cooking of the beans. I cook mine with a good amount of duck fat in addition to chicken stock and chunks of bacon. As the beans slowly cook and then cool, they soak up all of the duck fat and attain a buttery texture like no other. The easiest recipe I know that uses duck fat is roasted potatoes. Simply roast perfect local fingerling or Yukon Gold potatoes in duck fat and the aroma that fills your kitchen is ethereal, while the flavour on your palate is pure joy.

 

Chicken Fat

 

I don't know many people who cook with chicken fat (schmaltz) anymore. But when my father was growing up, it was a staple in his house. Schmaltz appeared in my grandmother's homemade matzah balls. It's the base of any good kishkah (stuffed derma) and it was every Jewish child's favourite after-school snack in the form of "greeben", fried chicken skin (a.k.a. Jewish popcorn). Do any of these items appear in a typical Jewish household today? Over our collective mother's dead bodies!!! But chicken fat does hold a place in the gastronomic world today. To make a great chicken liver pâté, chicken fat is my choice for texture and flavour. In fact, use chicken fat in place of duck fat to give your food the nostalgic taste of Eastern Europe circa 1920. To make your own schmaltz, boil chicken skin and the fat from within the carcass with a little water. Once the water has evaporated, strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve and store it in the refrigerator. It will last for months, and your taste buds will thank you.

DAIRY

 

I love dairy. My wife, Elisse, loves dairy. Our stomachs? Not so much. But that does not stop us from indulging in yoghurt with fresh, local berries in the summer. We devour cheese of all varieties, from all over the world (and yes, we have a soft spot for Ontario and Quebec cheeses). I could not execute a significant number of my creations without butter. And don't even get me started on ice cream. Cuisines from every corner of the earth rely on different variations of milk products to achieve the smooth mouth-feel that only dairy provides. Margarine can't do it. Soy and rice milk don't come close. If your digestive system has difficulty processing dairy, then by all means, use the substitutes. But if it is not an issue source the best local, organic dairy you can find (Organic Meadow or Harmony Organics in Ontario) and your cooking will benefit immensely.

 

Butter

 

In every restaurant that I have trained, butter is king. When meat and fish are pan roasted, they are inevitably finished with a nub of butter, a clove of garlic and a sprig of thyme. Sauces are either composed of butter or finished with butter. Mashed potatoes are "Frenchified" into "pommes puree" by whipping butter into the potatoes at a ratio of nearly 1:1. Buyer beware: one tablespoon of this stuff goes a long way.

 

When used properly, butter makes pastries flaky by creating little pockets of fat between layers of flour. The butter steams during the baking process, leavens the dough and melts away, leaving a combination of crispness and flavour that is heavenly. Local food writers love to tackle the debate over who makes the best croissant in the city. Personally, I have tried a lot of them and my vote goes to Marc Thuet. Most likely he uses really good butter and lots of it. The easiest pie dough recipe I know is called "3,2,1". That means three cups flour, 2 pounds butter, and 1 Cup ice water. Add one pinch of salt for every cup of flour.

 

Clarified butter is another form of fat that French cuisine could not do without. It is valued for its high smoking point; its clean, distinct flavour; and natural affinity for meats and fish. To make your own clarified butter, bring whole butter (unsalted) to a simmer and skim the foam that rises to the top. When you can clearly see the bottom of the pot, remove it from the heat and gently pour through a fine mesh sieve. Allow clarified butter to cool completely to room temperature before covering it and placing it in the refrigerator. It is extremely important not to allow condensation to collect within the container and do not let any liquid come into contact with clarified butter. When the slightest drop of water is mixed with clarified butter and it is heated on the stove, the butter crackles and splatters. It can cause serious burns and ignite into flames quite easily. Use it with care, but experiment with it every now and then. Clarified butter will add a certain "je ne sais quoi" to your Sunday supper.

 

Cream

 

Perhaps the greatest stigma when it comes to fat is associated with cream. Fettucine Alfredo, comprising of copious amounts of cream, is often referred to as "heart attack on a plate". In restaurants, customers regularly ask if a soup is cream based. I have never even heard of a soup that has cream as its base and I certainly would not want to eat one. But finishing a pureed soup with cream can be glorious and usually is the difference between a homemade soup and one made by a chef in a restaurant.

FINAL THOUGHTS ON FAT

The variety of fats available to consumers for cooking is overwhelming. I have not even mentioned vegetable oils, grapeseed, sesame, hemp, or nut oils. In my opinion, every type of fat has a rightful place in our pantries or refrigerators. Trying different fats in various combinations could throw an interesting spin on tried and true recipes. If you have an aversion to certain types of fat, by all means, experiment with another variety. Mashed potatoes mixed with extra virgin olive oil are delicious and chicken liver pate made with cream is equally smooth. So go ahead and add a little fat to your repertoire. Just make sure that you buy high quality fat to match the other ingredients in your shopping basket and you use a quantity that you are comfortable consuming. Because if you did not know already "fat is the new black".

To access past issues of live to eat? Click here.

MORE INFO ON THE HEALTHY BUTCHER...

The Healthy Butcher is located at 565 Queen St. West, in downtown Toronto

To contact us, call 416-ORGANIC or visit our web page.

  Click here for The Healthy Butcher's website

 
MORE INFO ON ORGANICS, NUTRITION,  RECIPES, and COOKING GUIDES

We have a full library of information at the click of a link.

  Click here for our library
 

 
OUR PRIVACY POLICY

The live to eat  newsletter is a free monthly newsletter distributed by The Healthy Butcher.  All e-mail addresses are kept confidential.  All unsubscription requests are honoured.  For more information, please refer to our privacy policy.

  Click here for our Privacy Policy