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TIP OF THE DAY: Uses For Duck Fat

Duck fat has long been a staple in the kitchens of top chefs. Like bacon fat, duck fat enhances the flavor of anything it touches.

One of the finest animal fats for cooking, it actually is low in saturated fat. As an ingredient, it has a silky mouth feel, subtle flavor and a high smoke point, which makes it valuable for high-heat cooking like French fries or pan searing.

Other benefits include deep browning and the ability to re-use the fat after cooking with it (strain it into a container).

DUCK FAT WITHOUT GUILT

Recent studies on duck fat show that it is low in saturated fat and high in unsaturated fat, making it one of healthiest animal fats you can eat.

  • Duck fat contains only 33% saturated fat; 62% is unsaturated fat (13.7% of which is polyunsaturated fat, containing Omega-6 and Omega-3 essential oils).
  • Duck fat is closer nutritionally to olive oil, with 75% monounsaturated fat, 13% saturated fat, 10% omega-6 linoleic acid and 2% omega-3 linoleic acid, than it is to other animal fats.
  • It’s high in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that actually helps keep cholesterol numbers in check (it’s the same fat that makes olive oil heart-healthy).
  • Most of the saturated fat is stearic acid, which is generally considered to be heart friendly.
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    Duck Fat Uses

    TOP PHOTO: Duck Fat-Potato Galette with Caraway and Sweet Onions from Bon Appetit. Here’s the recipe. BOTTOM PHOTO: A French classic: confit leg of duck in cassoulet, with duck bacon. Photo courtesy Payard | NYC.

  • Duck fat has less saturated fat than butter, (which has 51%).
  • High use of duck fat equals lower heart disease. In the southwest of France, where duck is the go-to cooking fat, the incidence of cardiovascular disease is about half that of the rest of France—which, per the French paradox, is already less than half that of the U.S.
  •  
    While the USDA may never declare duck fat to be heart-healthy like olive oil, you can use it without guilt. You have plenty of time to try it: It keeps frozen for six months or longer.
     
    HOW TO USE DUCK FAT

    Use duck fat as you would any other animal fat, in the same quantity and manner (melted vs. solid, cold vs. room temperature, for example) as the fat you’re replacing.

  • In place of a stick of butter, use a half cup of duck fat.
  • For a drizzle of oil, use a drizzle of slightly warmed duck fat.
  • When using duck fat for deep frying, gently melt the solid fat over medium-high heat until it completely liquefies; then raise the temperature to high to bring the fat up to the proper frying temperature.
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    Use Duck Fat At Breakfast

  • Eggs: fried or scrambled eggs, omelets, frittatas, etc. cooked in duck fat.
  • Potatoes: hash browns cooked in duck fat.
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    Use Duck Fat At Lunch & Dinner

  • Biscuits and popovers.
  • Classic French dishes such as cassoulet, confit de canard and rillettes.
  • Potatoes: French fries, galettes and roasted potatoes will be even crisper. Use it instead of butter in mashed potatoes.
  • Poultry: Instead of rubbing the bird with butter or oil before roasting, use duck fat for crisper skin. Rub some softened duck fat under the skin of the breasts and inside the cavity; massage it into the skin; then seasoning and roast in a hot oven.
  • Salad dressing: Substitute heated (liquid) duck fat for the oil, and pair with a fruity vinegar. Serve immediately after tossing with greens.
  • Searing: Give fish and seafood, meats and poultry, fish and shellfish an evenly browned, flavorful crust.
  • Vegetables: Sautéed or roasted, a little duck fat goes a long way in adding richness and facilitating caramelization.
  • Savory pie crusts: pot pie and quiche.
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    D'artgnan Duck Fat

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    You can buy duck fat from companies that specialize in pates and charcuterie, like D’Artagnan and Aux Delices. Photos courtesy Dartagnan.com.

     

    Use Duck Fat To Make Desserts & Snacks

  • Donuts: Fry them in duck fat—really! It adds a depth of flavor.
  • Popcorn: Pop the corn in it duck fat.
  • Pastry: It makes crisp, golden puffed pastry, tender, flaky pâté brisée and short crust pastry. Use a 50:50 duck fat:butter blend for most baking recipes. If using it as a replacement for lard, use an equal measure.
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    WHERE TO FIND DUCK FAT

  • Gourmet/specialty food stores.
  • Your local butcher or anywhere raw or cooked duck* is sold.
  • Your local poultry farmer.
  • Online: from D’artagnan.
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    *Gourmet take-out shops that sell rotisserie duck should have lots of it.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: 25+ Uses For Bacon Fat, Bacon Grease, Drippings Or Whatever You Call It

    Our mom loved to cook bacon: She loved the aroma. She also had a great exhaust hood, a kitchen with pocket doors to prevent the aroma from escaping to the rest of the house, and a window and a back door to let in fresh air.

    She bought thick-cut bacon and cooked it slowly over medium-low heat in a stainless steel skillet big enough to hold the entire pound of strips without crowding. At a lower heat, all the fat renders (melts into liquid) while the bacon crisps. Once, we recall, she received a block of slab bacon in a gourmet gift basket, cut it in a small dice and cooked it the same way.

    Call it bacon fat, bacon grease or bacon drippings: She strained it and stored the fat in a jar in the fridge, where it turned a creamy beige. She used it for pie crusts, for cooking eggs and a number of the uses below. And she always advised us never to pour it down the drain, or it would congeal and clog.

    You can store bacon fat in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a month. Use it instead of butter or oil—or in combination with them—to add hints of bacon flavor to your recipes.

    Then, when you’re ready to cook, you can:

  • Grease the pan with bacon fat.
  • Drizzle bacon fat over the ingredients.
  • Toss ingredients with bacon fat instead of oil.
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    Bacon Cooking In Pan

    Cook the bacon, save the fat. Photo by Claire Freierman | THE NIBBLE.

  • Mix melted bacon fat into the recipe instead of melted butter or oil.
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    Before you comment on the consumption of bacon fat: Yes, we know that cardiologists don’t support the consumption of any component of bacon. But that doesn’t stop Americans from eating 18 pounds of pork bacon each, per year. [Source]

     

    Beer & Bacon Potato Salad

    bacon-grease-fancyfoodfancy.wordpress-230

    TOP PHOTO: Potato salad with bacon fat (recipe below). Photo courtesy Samuel Adams. BOTTOM PHOTO: See how Sandy of Fancy Food Fancy uses bacon fat in her pie crusts. Photo courtesy Fancy Food Fancy.

      BACON FAT AT BREAKFAST

  • Fry eggs, hash browns and pancakes.
  • Grease the cornbread pan.
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    BACON FAT AT LUNCH

  • Bacon barbecue sauce (recipe)
  • Bacon mayonnaise or aïoli (recipe)
  • Caramelized onion dip (recipe)
  • French fries
  • Fried rice (recipe)
  • Grilled cheese and panini (instead of butter to pan-fry the
    sandwich)
  • Loaf breads (grease the pan)
  • Salad with warm bacon vinaigrette (recipe)
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    BACON FAT AT DINNER

  • Baked potatoes: rub bacon fat instead of oil on the skins before baking.
  • Brussels sprouts and bacon (recipe)
  • Cocktails: bacon-infused bourbon or other spirit (recipe)
  • Pan-fried potatoes.
  • Potato pancakes, roasted potatoes
  • Sauté cabbage, greens, mushrooms, onions and other veggies.
  • Stir-frys
  • Wine and bacon pasta sauce (recipe)
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    BACON FAT IN DESSERTS & SWEETS

  • Bacon-bourbon ice cream (recipe)
  • Bacon brownies (recipe)
  • Bacon caramel corn (recipe)
  • Bacon caramels (recipe)
  • Bacon milkshake (recipe).
  • Cookies: in chocolate chip or other cookies, substitute bacon fat for half the butter
  • Gingersnaps (recipe)
  • Pie crust (recipe)
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    BEER & BACON POTATO SALAD

    People who love bacon may already have discovered German potato salad, also called Alsatian potato salad. It is typically mixed with a vinagrette and the grease from the cooked bacon, and served warm with grilled sausages. Here’s a recipe.

    This recipe is by chef Michele Ragussis for Samuel Adams.

    Ingredients For 6-8 Servings

  • 3 bottles Samuel Adams Boston Lager or equivalent
  • 3 pounds baby potatoes
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 package bacon
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • Half head celery, diced
  • 1 bunch scallions, finely sliced
  • ¼ bunch dill
  • 16 ounces mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • 3 dashes red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon bacon fat
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    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F. Bring the beer to a boil in a large pot. Add the potatoes and boil in beer for about 15 minutes or until fork tender. Drain and let cool. Set aside.

    2. BRING a large pot of water to boil, and hard boil the eggs for about 12 minutes. Let the eggs cool, then peel and chop.

    3. COOK the bacon in a large sheet pan until crispy; then dice. Set aside.

    4. MIX the diced red onion, scallions, celery, bacon, eggs and dill in a large bowl.

    5. Once potatoes are cool, add to bowl of ingredients and smash together so they are half mashed.

    6. ADD all wet ingredients, salt and pepper and mix well. Add about a tablespoon of the bacon grease for flavor.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Beware Of Fake Italian Olive Oil

    bottle-question-mark-fake-livefreelivenatural

    The odds are high that your bottle of
    imported “extra virgin in olive oil” isn’t,
    especially if it’s a major supermarket brand
    and/or sold in bulk. Photo courtesy
    LiveFreeLiveNatural.com.

     

    “Is this for real?” a reader wrote, sending us a link to an article about fake olive oil. While we’ve covered this topic previously and also here, it’s worth revisiting. There’s a lot of fake imported oil claiming to be Italian olive oil.

    In fact, fake olive oil has been a major scandal in Italy for decades. People have gone to jail for oil fraud, although that doesn’t stop the practice.

    Unscrupulous Italian distributors import oil from Morocco, Spain (the largest producer of olive oil), Tunisia or elsewhere; bottle it in Italy and sell it a Italian olive oil. Sometimes, it’s a blend of a lower-quality Italian oil cut with non-Italian olive oil. Or it can be another oil entirely, such as soybean oil labeled “olive oil” on the manifest.

    Totally fake olive oil can be made by mixing cheap vegetable oils with beta-carotene to disguise the flavor, and chlorophyll to provide the green color many people believe (erroneously) indicates higher-quality olive oil.

    If the olive oil is bottled in Italy, it is not illegal to label it “Packed in Italy” or “Imported from Italy,” terms that easily deceive consumers. While a different country of origin is supposed to be listed on the label, often it is not. Italy is, in fact, the world’s largest importer of olive oil. Much of the oil sold as “Italian olive oil” isn’t, based on tests conducted in the U.S.

     
    A special branch of the Italian police is trained to detect bad oil; but as in most inspections of most product categories in any country, there are too many products and too few inspectors. Even when fraud is found, producers—many of whom have connections to powerful politicians—are rarely prosecuted. [Source]

     
    EVEN IF IT’S OLIVE OIL, IT MAY NOT BE “EXTRA VIRGIN”

    Just because the label says “extra-virgin olive oil” does not mean that’s what’s in the bottle. In fact, it may not even be 100% olive oil. It can be a blend of lower-quality vegetable oils that may include less than 20% olive oil.

    The “extra virgin” label has strict IOC (International Olive Council) requirements; namely, that the acidity of the oil is less than 1%. If the acidity is between 1% and 3.3%, the oil is called virgin olive oil; and the higher the acidity, the lower the grade of oil (here are the grades of olive oil). Much olive oil sold as “extra virgin” isn’t.

    A 2010 study by U.C. Davis, one of America’s top agricultural universities, found that 69% of the imported “extra virgin” olive oil sold in California supermarkets did not qualify as extra virgin (the results can be extrapolated to the rest of the country). That means your chance of buying real extra virgin is less than 1 in 3. Here’s the full report.

    The Executive Summary begins:

    While there are many excellent imported and domestic extra virgin olive oils available in California, our findings indicate that the quality level of the largest imported brand names is inconsistent at best, and that most of the top-selling olive oil brands we examined regularly failed to meet international standards for extra virgin olive oil.

    Of the five top-selling imported “extra virgin” olive oil brands in the United States, 73% of the samples failed the IOC sensory standards for extra virgin olive oils, analyzed by two separate IOC-accredited sensory [tasting] panels.

    The fraud typically comes from supermarket brands, store brands and club store brands that sell in big volume. There is nothing harmful about the olive oil, but it isn’t of the quality of the Italian olive oil you think you’re paying for. If you’re buying it for it’s heart-healthy benefits, you may not be getting them.

    In 2010, a class action lawsuit in California targeted 10 major olive oil brands: Bertolli, Carapelli, Colavita, Filippo Berio, Mazola, Mezzetta, Pompeian, Rachael Ray, Safeway Select and Star. It also names 10 major supermarket chains and big box stores that allegedly sold substandard oil as “extra-virgin.” This includes olive oil mixed with cheaper types of oil, lower quality olive oil and olive oil degraded by heat or age.

    Artisan oils from smaller brands are typically what they claim to be. They don’t sell in enough volume to interest the fraudsters.

     

    GREEN COLOR DOESN’T MEAN BETTER OLIVE OIL

    Consumers have come to believe that green olive oil is better quality. So another trick fraudsters use is to color yellow olive oil green with chlorophyll.

    While some green oils are top quality, the color of the oil is determined by:

  • The ripeness of the olives at harvest; for example, unripe, green olives yield green-hued oil and ripe, purple-black olives produce golden-toned oil.
  • Some olive varieties produce greener oil, just as some varieties of grapes produce deeper or lighter hues.
  • The International Olive Oil Council does not consider color as a factor in its blind grading of olive oils. In fact, oil is tasted from blue glasses to obscure the color.
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    The fake can be discerned through lab analysis, although the retailers themselves don’t conduct these analyses. Read more at OliveOilSource.com.
     
    HOW TO DETERMINE IF OLIVE OIL IS REAL

  • Look for a label from a certifying agency, for example, the International Olive Council (IOC) for imported oils and the California Olive Oil Council (COOC) for California oils. Oils with these labels of authenticity generally undergo strict quality control testing.
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    extra-virginity-230

    What started out as an exposé in The New York Times is now an even more informative book. Photo courtesy W. W. Norton & Company.

  • Buy American-grown and -made olive oil. U.S. growers and manufacturers are generally held to stricter standards than companies that export to the U.S. California and Texas are the top two producing states. Olive oil is also made in Florida, Georgia, Hawaii and Oregon.
  • Look for the Non-GMO Project seal. The Non-GMO Project rigorously evaluates products before bestowing their seal.
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    And by all means:

  • Buy directly from olive oil producers when you’re in an oil-producing region.
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    Here are two “tricks” that are not 100% foolproof:

  • Avoid the “fridge test.” Dr. Oz perpetuated the myth that authentic olive oil will thicken and become cloudy in the refrigerator. Although some will, many varieties of oil will react that way. Here are details.
  • Avoid thw “flame test.” Real olive oil is flammable because of its low smoke point. But numerous other oils also have low smoke points. Here’s a chart. Thus, advice to light the oil with a match to see if it burns is no more accurate than the fridge test.
  •  
    Want to learn more? Get Tom Mueller’s book, Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil.
     
    And for free, you can read through our informative Olive Oil Glossary.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Infused Oils

    You may see a proliferation of infused olive oils at the market. But you might want to infuse your own:

  • When you don’t have the space to store multiple bottles of oil.
  • When you don’t use infused oils often enough and the they go stale.
  • When you’d prefer an infused oil other than olive oil.
  • When you’d like to save money.
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    Here’s a tip from Sunbasket, a West Coast service that delivers the best foods from the best farms along with personalized, easy recipes.

    Speaking of easy: Infused oils are easy to make. The technique we describe below takes only minutes, not weeks of infusing.

    WHEN TO USE INFUSED OILS

    Infused oils can add a rich, complex boost of flavor and aroma to nearly anything you prepare. We use them to:

  • Make more flavorful salad dressings.
  • Drizzle over pasta, meat and seafood.
  • Dip bread.
  • Cook eggs.
  • Grill vegetables.
  • Add flavor to baked goods.
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    olive-oil-pour-spout-flavoryourlife-230

    Drizzle flavored olive oil on pasta, meat or fish. Photo courtesy Flavor-Your-Life.com.

  • Replace the pat of butter (cholesterol) on potatoes, rice and veggies.
  • Sauté and stir-fry (but don’t deep fry—remember the smoke point).
  • And just about any occasion when you use cooking oil.
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    WHAT FLAVORS TO INFUSE

    Most of the oils in the market are infused with herbs, citrus or garlic. Basil and rosemary are the most popular herbs, but also consider using cilantro, dill, oregano, parsley or thyme.

    For citrus: blood orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime, mandarin or exotics (calamondin, kaffir lime).

    For spices, just look on the spice shelf and find what piques your interest. How about chile, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, nutmeg or star anise?

    For aromatics: garlic, ginger, lemongrass or scallions.

    How about nuts: almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios or walnuts?

     

    olive-oil-pouring-flavoryourlife-230

    Add flavor to grilled vegetables. Photo courtesy Flavor-Your-Life.com.

     

    QUICK-INFUSED OIL

    While many infused oils are made by soaking herbs in oil for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, a quick and easy infused oil can be make on the stove top in minutes.

    Since you’re adding flavor, there’s no need to splurge on an expensive oil. If you’re infusing olive oil, use one that has mild flavor—not too peppery or fruity (unless you want those flavors in the final product). Or, pick a neutral cooking oil like canola (the different types of cooking oils).

     
    Preparation

    1. HEAT 1 cup of your favorite oil over very low heat in a sauté pan, skillet or nonstick pan.

    2a. FOR HERBS: Add three sprigs of fresh herbs and a lightly smashed clove of garlic. Let the herbs cook in the pan until they’re just starting to brown, but not burn.

     
    2b. FOR SPICES: Cook until the oil just starts to bubble.

    2c. FOR NUTS: Use nuts that are raw and unsalted. Cook until they’re just starting to brown.

    Cooking any of these on the lowest heat possible will give the oil time to pull out the flavors while not burning.

    3. COOL and strain the oil with a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Then funnel the oil into a glass bottle with a tight-fitting cap. Store in the fridge for up to 1 month.

    4. REMOVE the oil from the fridge 20 minutes before using, to bring it to room temperature. Or, use it as soon as it’s made.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Oil & Vinegar Sprayer

    evo-oil-sprayer-230

    Spray on oil and vinegar. Photo courtesy Delta.

     

    Just in time for summer cook-outs and picnics, we were sent samples of the large and small Evo Oil Sprayers.

    They’re different from misters: The spray is less fine and wider. The company claims that the spray nozzle is no-clog (a complaint with the finer-spray misters); so far, that’s been true for us.

    Today’s tip is: If you’re not yet using a mister/sprayer in the kitchen and for grilling, now’s the time to try one:

  • On cooking and baking pans and grill grates, instead of misters or aerosol-propelled (chemical) sprays. You also use your own quality oils, and can vary them (canola, olive, peanut or herb-infused, for example).
  • To evenly spray vegetables before roasting.
  • To spray butter- or herb-flavored oil on grains, popcorn and vegetables.
  • On salads, to save calories and the waste of vinaigrette at the bottom of the bowl.
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    Available in two sizes, 8 ounces and 18 ounces, Evo is an option for people who aren’t happy with their current oil sprayers/misters. (We gave up on misters after trying to unclog two different brands.)

     
    The smaller size package consists of two bottles ($24.08). You can use one for oil and the other for vinegar; the bottles are different colors so you can easily tell which is which. We combined different oil and vinegar combinations into each bottle: one a balsamic vinaigrette, one a red wine vinaigrette.

    The large bottle ($19.99) comes with changeable silicone neck tags that identify five different kinds of oil plus balsamic vinegar (although you’d think that the color of the latter would be a dead giveaway). A funnel (provided) twists on to the bottle for easy filling.

    The Evo sprayers are made of high-quality plastic and are top-rack dishwasher safe; the sprayers are easily hand-washed in soapy water. Both components are BPA-, DEHP- and latex-free.

    The sleek ergonomic design is by Michael Graves Design Group, the architectural firm that has designed a variety of housewares including the iconic Alessi Michael Graves Kettle with Bird Whistle.

    Get your sprayers on Amazon.com, for yourself and for house gifts.

     
      

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