Today, I braised duck legs for one of my clients. Before doing anything else with them, I had to trim the excess skin and fat from the legs — and ducks are fatty, fatty animals. I had 6 legs, so I decided to render the fat from the copious trimmings. Rendering fat is a fairly simple process. I put about half an inch of water in the bottom of an oven-safe saucepan, and to that I added the chopped up fat and skin from the duck. I put it in a low oven (300ºF) and let it do its magic for a couple hours, as I went about my business making celery root purée and braising short ribs in addition to the duck legs. The water is there to prevent the skin and other solids from burning in the beginning, and it evaporates out as the fat renders. After taking it out of the oven, and straining out the solids, I was left with pure golden duck fat.
This is not where the story ends! I hope you don’t think that I threw out the precious skin. The skin is where the true magic lies, my friends. I put the skin back into the saucepan with about a tablespoon of the rendered fat and fried it up until it was crispy, crunchy cracklings! Also known as gribenes in Yiddish.
I salted them and added them to some of the celery root purée referenced above for my “family meal” for one!