Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of Meat Lite, a weekly column that will celebrate meat in moderation by Philadelphia food writers Joy Manning and Tara Mataraza Desmond. Meat Lite was inspired by the book the two coauthored, Almost Meatless, coming out in Spring 2009.
A jar of bacon grease. Photograph by unclerib on Flickr.
Even among fats, bacon grease is considered a special kind of villain. It represents all the evils of saturated fat, calories, and cholesterol. But the fact is: bacon fat has the same amount of calories as olive oil. It’s true that it has more saturated fat than some oils do, but it’s no worse on that score than butter. And, if you start with high-quality bacon from Heritage pigs, it would be unforgivable to allow that flavorful fat to go to waste. I have a jar of congealed bacon fat in my fridge at all times.
In my experiences, a tablespoon of bacon fat makes a tray of ultra-healthy Brussels sprouts palatable to people who claim to hate this cruciferous veggie (the cruciferous family also includes kale, cabbage, and collards). Just melt the fat down in a skillet, toss with a mess of halved Brussels sprouts, sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper, and roast those cancer-fighters at 400 degrees until they are just brown and tender. Bacon fat also makes an excellent base for sauteing aromatics in otherwise vegetarian soups. It adds tremendous depth of flavor and meatiness with a tiny amount of extra fat.
But my favorite use for this wrongly vilified foodstuff is in my roasted potatoes. I eat them like French fries, as a side for mussels, burgers and salad. And yes, I serve them with an even eviler ingredient: homemade mayonnaise. But that’s another post.