Fat is the quickest way to make a dish more comforting and satisfying. It should not be something to be scared of. You can use it sparingly or be indulgent. Even a small amount can transform a dish for the better. We encourage you to ask the question “does this dish need fat?”. Especially, if a dish is a bit too spicy or acidic, fat will be your friend to offset. In this lesson we explore ways to add fat to help you cook better.
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Butter / Ghee
The French know it, anyone who has dipped a lobster claw in the stuff knows it, butter adds fat and flavor. Why? It adds richness and mouthfeel. It also spreads the flavor of food evenly throughout your mouth. People often overlook Ghee though (clarified butter). It has a high smoke point, is popular in Indian cooking and can be subbed out for canola oil everywhere but deep frying. It adds a huge taste and helps caramelize food. Toss a starch in it and you can’t go wrong but it also works in salad dressings and adds to enrich curries and vegetable soups. Flash fry some aromatics like garlic and shallots, chili and coriander seeds in ghee and sprinkle over a boring can of soup and everything changes.
Butter We Recommend:
Heavy Cream / Sour Cream / Crème Fraiche
If you have ever spooned heavy cream into tomato soup, or sour cream into chili you have made something taste better with high-fat dairy. Creme Fraiche is a fancy name for sour cream but smeared on a piece of pumpernickel with smoked salmon (also fatty and delicious), with dill and lemon zest is an easy “fancy” appetizer.
Oil / Olive / Pumpkin / Nut Oils
Olive oil adds healthy fat and has historically been used from Tunisia to Turkey and beyond but there is a long list of cooking oils that add both fat and flavor, some examples (click for recommendations):
Nothing gives a salad dressing a new delicious dimension like nut oil. Coconut oil adds richness. Try pumpkin oil over bruschetta, fresh hummus or a goat cheese salad.
Olive oil is standard but specialty oils can layer flavor in seconds.
One of life’s great pleasures is potatoes roasted in duck fat with good salt (Maldon). Duck fat has a high smoke point (you can fry in it) and it is incredible for roasting veggies, smearing on toast or basting onto grilled meets.
Always save meat grease, a couple to remember.
Sausage - (Chorizo, Italian ect.)
Turkey or Chicken Fat
How to re-purpose meat drippings:
Much like Duck Fat, roast Brussels sprouts, carrots, potatoes or any vegetables, sautéed mushrooms in the stuff or smear it on toast and top with your favorite hummus, bean purée, goat cheese ect.
Think of meat dripping as butter. Anywhere you would use butter it works!
Chorizo oil and rosemary popcorn anyone?
Avocado oil is great plant-based oil to use in everyday cooking.
Nuts / Nut Butters
Nut Butter adds healthy fats quickly. Yes peanut butter (we love Elliot’s), but pistachio butter on well-buttered toast becomes a decadent dessert and a spoonful of cashew butter folded into a stew can add richness and nuttiness. Again, do not overthink it. Just add a scoop of nut butter to any sauce or dressing, balance the health fat out with a bit of acidity and you’ve added two healthy layers of flavor.
Indian Tadka (Indian infused oil topping)
How Infuse Fats:
Fat is a vessel for flavor. Most of these ingredients can be heated and spiked with chili, or aromatic herbs or pungent spices like cumin, cardamom or star anise. Consider infusing fats by bringing them to melting temperature if solid or just simmering for liquid (heavy cream) and infusing with whatever you are feeling for 5-20 minutes.
Cheese / Cream Cheese / Mascarpone
Grated cheese and a broiler upgrade most dishes but don’t be afraid to slip cream cheese sitting in your fridge in a sauce or some Mac and Cheese. Or infuse it with some vanilla and honey and smear bread with grilled fruit. If you have a fridge door full of cheese that’s about to expire, make Mac and Cheese or baked pasta or even a mornay (cheese) sauce for broccoli or cauliflower. Maybe even melt it all down with crumbled chorizo and make a queso fundido to dip tortilla chips in. Do not worry about the types of cheese, melted cheese is undefeated. Use that old bread sitting around…Fondue anyone? The point is to get the ideas rolling. Understand you can add cheese to almost any dish to up the flavor (and season at the same time).
A can of coconut milk is a broth waiting to happen. Just infuse with aromatics like ginger or garlic, turmeric or lime leaf but you can get weird and add cracked pepper and taco seasoning or anything you have in your cupboard. Add some seafood or sliced chicken and some fresh veg and you have dinner in half an hour.
You can also use coconut milk as a base for salad dressing, or to poach seafood or shellfish in. With any soup or stew, dump a can in to add richness.
High Fat Fish
Smoked salmon or Boquerones (Spanish White anchovies) add silky fat draped over a simple salad or sliced tomatoes and basil. If you like a stronger flavor, anchovies or sardines on toast are a simple snack, just offset with a bit of vinegar and leafy herbs.
Understand how to incorporate fat and balance it and you will understand how to make delicious food every time. It is not hard, just work in some of the above ingredients, experiment, try using some in unexpected places. Cooking is about trying things and with something like fat, there are few failures and many exciting wins.
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