Perhaps the finest reason of all for roasting a fresh duck is the reward of the accumulation of unctuous, silken, flavorful fat rendered by the cooking process.
Some years ago, I was lucky enough to find myself one particular evening, seated at the cozy kitchen dinner table of friends, Linda and Fred Griffith, If you ever find yourself on the receiving end of one of their generous invitations,do not, under any circumstances, dare to decline. Dinners at Chez Griffith are always a mix of interesting company, lively conversation, good wine, and the occasional mammoth dog or cat to navigate. But most of all, there is delicious and abundant food, mostly sourced from local farms and purveyors as Linda and Fred have been active proponents of local farmers and their agricultural endeavors long before the term ‘locavore’ was coined.
This time the gathering was on an intimate scale – I clearly remember the other guest and the bottle of ’03 Roessler Cellars Sangiacomo Vineyards Pinot Noir I brought along, toted back from a recent trip to Napa. The entree and salad, which I’m positive were worthy of many superlatives, are a little bit foggy as I was blown away completely by Linda’s side dish of duck fat potatoes – shatteringly crunchy on the exterior, creamy soft to the tooth on the interior and just the perfect amount of salty seasoning added to allow subtle duck nuances to emerge. It’s altogether possible that I was entirely uncommunicative during the entree course while silently concentrating on each bite of humble potato made exquisite by a low oven, long slow cooking and rich fat. I would have been content with a meal comprised solely of these potatoes and a glass of the Pinot, which I recall so well because it was one of those chance synergistic mind-blowers of a a pairing.
I believe Linda starts her potatoes from a raw state, but cooked redskins – which I already had – halved and slightly crushed to allow for ragged, random variations of textures worked as prime fat-coated carriers as well. Either way, the result is pure, pure heavenly bliss in the mouth.
A quick gremolata of Italian parsley, garlic and meyer lemon zest (the orange undertones in the meyers are harmonious with the duck fat), folded into the hot potatoes smells amazing, tastes even better and adds a welcome flourish of color.
Duck Fat Roasted Potatoes
Serves 4 as a side. Or 1 as an entire meal *smiles*.
1 1/2 pounds redskin or other small potato, lightly steamed or raw, halved or quartered, crushed or not – this is your recipe – play.
1/4 cup rendered duck fat
Sea salt to taste
Optional gremolata garnish of chopped Italian parsley, garlic and grated meyer lemon zest.
Preheat oven to 300.
Melt the duck fat in a cast iron pan large enough to hold the potatoes in one layer. Tumble in the potatoes and turn to coat in the fat. Sprinkle to taste with salt. Place in the oven and roast, turning the potatoes every half hour or so until browned and crispy on the exterior – about 3 hours. Remove from the oven and check seasoning. Fold in the optional gremolata.