Though many chefs used to treat animal fats as their “secret ingredient” for fear of turning off diners, today many are practically bragging about the use of lard in their cooking.
“I call it fatty gold,” says Graeme Alexander, sous chef at Sona Creamery and Wine Bar, who frequently uses rendered bacon as an efficient way to add flavor to his cooking. The popularity (and acceptance) of animal fats goes hand in hoof with the rise of the whole-animal movement, with chefs finding ways to repurpose every bit of the beast.
Clearly this isn’t the healthiest of trends, so what’s worth the indulgence?
The Partisan’s rotissi-fried chicken, for starters (half $16/whole $28; 709 D St. NW; 202-524-5322, thepartisandc.com ). First the bird is cooked rotisserie-style, skin on, before it’s deep-fried in a beef fat bath and served with a honey hot sauce. The two-step cooking process seals in flavorful juices and promises an extra-crunchy meal.
The charcuterie plate at Jackson 20 boasts an inventive use of animal fats ($16; 480 King St., Alexandria; 703-842-2790, jackson20.com). Off to the side of your board is a pig “butter” made from fatback (a hard fat that runs the length of the pig’s back), shallots, garlic, herbs and sea salt. Treat it like you would butter by slathering it across some crusty bread.
On a low-carb diet? We understand health is a concern of yours. May we suggest instead pieces of sliced lardo (more pleasingly called “prosciutto bianco”) off Osteria Morini’s charcuterie menu that you can eat straight ($9/per choice, $17 for three, $25 for five; 301 Water St. SE; 202-484-0660, osteriamorini.com)? “In America, lard can be a sore subject, but in Italy that’s not the case,” Osteria Morini chef Matt Adler says. “I wouldn’t recommend eating it all the time, but there’s real flavor and fun in using it.”