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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

When green brightens the yellow

One delectable item I got to play with while at the Western Casa McBardo was a tub of pure indulgence - aka, rendered duck fat. Although I must admit, my admiration for the flavor the different animal fats bring to the stove is growing. At home, I have slowly braised pork belly in peppercorns and star anise, and have kept the skimmed off flavored pork fat rather than discarding it.

But what do we do with it?

There are all sorts of things you can do with the fat, but I'll start with one of the easiest: stir fried greens. Of course, a problem I have with the average American mega-grocery is the anemic selection of greens worthy of cooking (not to say that I won't indulge in mustard greens or kale - one of my favorites). For this application, I turn to the Asian aisle, where we found gailan - "Chinese broccoli". Which is an odd translation, because broccoli is native to Italy.

Gailan is pretty much all edible, so I trimmed off the woody parts, and sliced into bite sized portions. It doesn't reduce down like spinach, having more heft. I also chopped about two cloves of garlic. Heat up a flat saute pan with a lid (you can use a wok, but I find that most stoves aren't hot enough to really do wok cooking), and throw in about a tablespoon (or two) of the duck fat - this should get pretty blazing hot. Sprinkle in a bit red pepper chile flake, and after about 10 seconds, sprinkle in the garlic. Keep stirring at this point, after about another 10 seconds, put in the gailan, toss it around a bit, and clamp on the lid. After about 2 to 4 minutes of steaming in its own juices, open up the pan, salt with some coarse sea salt, and toss some more. You can finish with a sprinkling of lemon juice, or, if you are feeling a little indulgent, a little more duck fat.

The technique will work with most any fat that doesn't burn at high heat (I don't recommend butter unless it is clarified - although the finishing step can use unclarified butter), and a number of other greens (yu choi, kale, brussels sprouts, etc).

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