Wednesday, February 13, 2008
It's funny how one picks up little bits of information that get stored away in the mind, until one day it just pops out. I've heard more than once or twice that goose fat makes the best roast potatoes, in fact, animal fats, especially lard and dripping, seem to add an extra dimension to fried and roasted potatoes. Until a huge outcry, McDonalds used beef fat to cook their famous fries - because they tasted better. When we grew up, pretty much everything was fried or roasted in animal fat. Times changed.
These days we use fairly neutral oils for the job, for the sake of our health, though recently I've noticed some claims for health benefits from animal fats, one of them centred on Omega 3 levels. Not that I was thinking about any of this, when a jar of goose fat came home with me late last year. It was just curiousity.
The other day, I spied a beautiful piece of pork shoulder at Ormond Meat & Smallgoods. I always buy pork from either Asian or Continental butchers as they usually never sell male pork. We have bought pork from supermarkets, but that is a real lottery. They sell both sexes, but male pork just has a distinct taste to it, even though in production, male pigs are castrated very young, in attempt to overcome the strong musky flavour that their hormones would otherwise imbue the meat with. It works, to a certain extent, but male pork always seems to have just a slight whif or odour about it, which also extends to the tastebuds.
In an aside, Zepp, the proprieter, was talking to me about meat quality in general after I had asked about the size of his T-bone steaks, which he cuts from yearling beef. He said his customers preferred a smaller size AND the tenderness that youth bestowed upon the steak. He went on to say that this quest for younger and therefore tender meat had impacted upon the health of people's teeth. It would seem that chewing a slightly tougher steak from an older animal is actually good for your teeth, not to mention it has much better flavour. But ever since the virtual demise of the superior, but more wasteful, dry ageing of whole carcasses in favour of cryovac aging, the age of slaughtered cattle has fallen.
After our conversation, the pork shoulder was slipped into my shopping bag and the planning for a roast meal started. It was later at home that I remembered the goose fat and resolved to roast our potatoes in it. The jar had been sitting happily in the cupboard and at room temperature, the fat, whilst not melted, was reasonably liquid and poured readily. It reminded me somewhat of duck fat as it had a similar smell, not unpleasant, but slightly gamey. I melted the fat and popped in the par boiled spuds and left them to roast under the pork, giving them an occasional baste.
It was quite a dinner that night. The meat was succulent and juicy, the crackling had just the right crunch, the creamy sauce had fresh porcini from the freezer, giving a wonderful mushroom flavour and the potatoes, what can I tell you. In my life, I've had one or two roast potatoes, but these were simply the best I've ever had, all golden and crispy, with a slight edge from the goose fat. Why did I wait so long?