After all the animal fat talk this week, I figured a recipe was in order. But how could I make a dish that revolved around animal fat? Animal fats usually are just cooking aids, rather than stars of the show – it wasn’t like I could just plop a few ounces of rendered lard on a plate and serve that up – so I had to somehow emphasize them. To accomplish this, I used three different animal fats in the making of the dish. Bacon lard coated the oven-roasted chicken, the apples cooked in goose fat, and the sweet potato chips were fried in freshly-rendered beef tallow.
Here’s what you’ll need:
A chicken (I used a four-pounder)
Apples (I used gala)
First, preheat your oven to 425 degrees and place your three fats on the counter to soften. Rinse your chicken and save the organs. After patting it dry, coat your chicken, inside and out, with sea salt and black pepper. Make sure the salt is really being absorbed into the skin. Set it aside until this takes place.
Next, chop up your apples into cubes. I used 3 medium sized gala apples, very crisp and sweet. They were organic, so I left the peels on. Sprinkle a good amount of fresh lemon juice (about half a lemon’s worth) onto your apples and toss.
Stuff your chicken with the apples. If you can’t fit them all, don’t worry. You’ll be removing the original bunch about halfway through the roasting, at which point you can re-stuff the chicken with the leftover apples.
Coat the chicken liberally with the softened bacon lard. I used three nice big globs. You’ll probably have to use your hands and get a little greasy if you really want a good coating… and you want a good coating. Once it’s all coated (don’t forget the bottom), put the chicken breast up in a roasting pan and pop it into the oven.
While the chicken roasts and the delicious scent of heated bacon fat fills the kitchen, you should prep the sweet potatoes. Peel them and then, with the sharpest knife available, slice them as thin as you can. Achieving a crispy sweet potato can be really difficult, and a thickness of more than a few millimeters pretty much makes it impossible (without resorting to a starchy coating, which you don’t want). Lay your potato slices out on a paper towel, sprinkle salt on both sides, and cover them with another paper towel. The salt will draw out moisture and the towels will soak it up. Remember, moisture is the enemy of crispness.
After thirty minutes in the oven, reduce the heat to 375 degrees. The skin should be nicely browning by now. If you have more apples you’d like to cook, now’s the time to make the switch. Use a spoon to scoop out the warm apples and reserve them in a bowl. Stuff the chicken with the new apples. Put the bird back in the oven.
After forty minutes, your chicken should be done. Make sure it is by stabbing the thickest part of the thigh; if the juices run clear, it’s done. If they run red, it still has a bit more to go. My four-pounder was done after forty, but oven temperatures and bird weights will vary, so do the stab test. If your chicken’s done, remove the apples and add them to the original bunch, sprinkling some cardamom over all of them.
Now it’s time to heat the tallow. Get a heavy pan (cast iron is probably best) and use enough tallow to make about a half-inch of liquid fat. Heat it over medium-high heat for a few minutes, then do a test run. Add a single sweet potato slice (they should be ready by now) and monitor it closely. If it starts to brown and crisp up after just a few minutes, you have a good heat level. Go ahead and add the rest. Don’t overcrowd the pan, because that will drop the temperature. Use tongs to occasionally flip the slices, making sure not to allow burning. The key is having incredibly thinly sliced potato slices so that the frying is brief and instantaneous. Let them cool/drain on a paper towel.
At the same time, heat a couple tablespoons of goose fat in another heavy pan over medium-high heat. Add your apples. They’re pretty much cooked already (from their time in the chicken), so you’re mainly looking to get a nice crust on them. When you’re satisfied with the texture and the level of char, remove them from the heat.
Next, combine all three on the same piece of circular ceramic and dig in!