I used to babysit for a French family who, while lovely in all other respects, was simply terrible at buying groceries. Their fridge was a wasteland of wilted lettuce, sprouted potatoes, and lonely half nibbled blocks of cheese. And always nestled in the back, usually tucked up behind a single chicken breast and a half empty bottle of Cotes du Rhone, was a small container of goose fat.
I was always curious about the goose fat, but unsure as to what I could use it for. Instead I relied on the more familiar staples of butter and olive oil, until, one fateful afternoon, I needed to roast some of those sad sprouted potatoes. The olive oil was gone, and the butter needed for breakfast toast the next morning. My gaze fell upon the treacherous little pot of goose fat. “Might as well give it a try,” I thought. This is a vague approximation of the recipe I used; feel free to alter and edit to suit your tastes.
Goose Fat Potatoes
Preheat the oven to 350 fahrenheit/180 celsius. While the oven is heating up, cut the potatoes into large chunks.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and toss in the chopped up potatoes for 5-10 minutes. While this is going on, melt a generous lump of solid goose fat in a roasting pan in the preheated oven, til it gets nice and hot.
Drain the potatoes and toss them in with the fat, making sure to wear an apron to avoid the inevitable hot fat splatters. Add any other herbs or alliums you might be using at this point (in my case, unpeeled cloves of garlic and sage leaves, but I also recommend thyme, rosemary, shallots, or really anything your greedy little heart desires.)
Roast for between 45 minutes to an hour, making sure to baste and turn your potatoes occasionally so they get evenly cooked. Remove, let cool slightly, and dig in!
The potatoes were a revelation. The goose fat had permeated their interiors and steamed them softly oily, while turning their skins golden and shatteringly crisp. I had thrown in a few cloves of garlic in their jackets, and the fat had done wonders for them as well. We slipped them out and smeared them all over the crispy potatoes. No one bothered to eat anything else that night.
Readily available in gourmet markets and specialty stores across Europe and the US, goose fat is an excellent introduction to the wild world of offal. Recently, it has become fashionable for carnivorous chefs to adopt a more traditional approach towards eating animals, relying on the lesser appreciated cuts of meat and squidgy strange delicious bits that were previously overlooked in favor of a single minded fondness for prime rib and filet mignon. With exotic bits of offal popping up on menus and in bucher departments with increasing frequency, cooking with goose (or duck) fat is a great way to experiment with the wild world of nose to tail cooking.
Although most animal fats make for delightful shortening, particularly lard, which is the ultimate secret ingredient for flakey pie crust, goose fat is notable for its assertive taste, making it a natural fit for starchy, naturally blander dishes that could use a little unami kick in the pants.
Aside from it’s magical power over roasted potatoes, melted goose fat provides a great base for frying latkes in, or using as shortening in savory dumplings and tart crusts. As such a natural match for carb heavy winter comfort food, goose fat is an especially excellent pantry addition this time of year, when fall turns slowly into winter, and darkness descends quickly on increasingly rainy nights.