This week's Cook the Book selection is all about fat, but I want to start off by talking about bread. More specifically, the best bread basket I've ever had. It was at Del Posto, the elegant (if somewhat imposing) Italian restaurant co-owned by Mario Batali and Joe and Lidia Bastianich.
Overflowing with crunchy breadsticks, oven-fresh focaccia, and an assortment of rolls, the basket comes not only with butter but also with a small tureen of whipped lardo. That's right. Pork fat. It's surprisingly light, incredibly flavorful, and absolutely delicious. While the basket would still be very good without it, the whipped lardo adds an extraspecial element that raises the once-humble offering of bread to luxurious new heights. Ed Levine agrees with me, naming Del Posto's bread basket "perhaps my favorite lunch or dinner bread basket anywhere."
Jennifer McLagan, chef and award-winning cookbook author, believes that the food industry has "demonized" fat; wrongly labeling it a "greasy killer," when in fact it has been an integral part of our diet for centuries. To combat this notion, she has written the ultimate book on the subject: Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes. With chapters devoted to butter, pork, poultry, beef and lamb fats, and more than 100 recipes for dishes such as duck fat french fries and bacon baklava, Jennifer sets out to cure us of our fat phobia.
Simply put, Jennifer loves fat, "whether it's a slice of foie gras terrine…French butter from Normandy…hot bacon fat…or a piece of crunchy pork crackling, delicious either hot or cold. Fat is as much an homage as it is a collection of recipes: the photos are coffee table-worthy, and the pages are sprinkled here and there with proverbs and quotes ("If you are afraid of butter, as many people are nowadays, just put in cream" —Julia Child).
In addition to excerpting a recipe each day this week, we're also giving away copies of Fat to five (5) lucky readers. To enter for a chance to win, simply answer this question in the comments section below: What is your favorite dish to prepare in which fat is an important ingredient?
Five (5) people will be chosen at random from eligible comments below. Comments will close Monday, October 20 at noon ET. The standard Serious Eats contest rules apply.
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