Two little words: duck fat.

It’s been tossed about among foodies as the new “it” ingredient, the best thing since sliced bread, a little bit of Heaven… Yes, yes and definitely yes.

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Sitting on the top shelf in its clear plastic container from France 44 it lured me at every peek inside the refrigerator. I gave in after a day and a half, using the silky gold fat to cook up an old favorite for lunch. My usual for this recipe is the tofu and brussels sprouts with pecans, plus her spinach + curry powder suggestion. Today I followed routine, adding chopped leek as well. I’ve made this dish many times; never was I quite this satisfied.

Itching to put it to further use, Sandy and I hatched a plan for a wilted spinach salad with duck fat dressing to accompany supper: salt-cured country ham we picked up from a farm stand in Kentucky, slow-cooked Rancho Gordo Good Mother Stallard beans [see note below], parmesan pepper lemon biscuits and an easy-going Shiraz. What better to accompany a southern meal than wilted greens topped by frizzled garlic and shallot in hot melted duck fat?

The unctuous duck fat melts quickly melts away into a shimmering liquid. Both creamy and luxe, and strangely mesmerizing – I almost wanted to melt away with it, float off with the sweet and smoky aroma… Once the duck fat is hot, the remaining ingredients are added, and the sizzling dressing is poured over fresh spinach leaves. A quick toss and few minutes to wilt the greens later, you have yourself one serious salad. Something you wouldn’t fear serving to your most dreaded and critical supper guests.

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Wilted Spinach Salad with Duck Fat & Smoked Paprika Dressing [serves 3-4]

Printable recipe

A variation that came to mind while cooking: swap out the Dijon mustard and smoked paprika for maple syrup and sweet paprika.

3 T duck fat

1 small shallot, thinly sliced

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

a good pinch of kosher salt

1 T apple cider vinegar

1 t Dijon mustard

a few dashes of smoked paprika [careful, this is potent stuff!]

several cranks of freshly cracked black pepper

~ 1/3 lb fresh baby spinach [1 regular-sized clamshell container full from the salad bar –or- 1 large bunch]

Place spinach in a large bowl. Set aside.

Melt duck fat in a pan over medium to medium-high heat. When hot and shimmering, add shallot, garlic and salt; cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Add vinegar, mustard, paprika and pepper; swirl to combine.

Pour hot dressing over spinach leaves, tossing to coat completely. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Cover bowl with a towel, lid or plate for a few minutes to wilt the greens. Serve while still warm.

A squirrel bread original.

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Out of this world.

Duck fat has power, I tell you. The power to enhance any dish like nothing else. Not to say it’s the end-all be-all [although it’s darn close], but it’s got a character all its own. It’s packed with flavor and bite, yet still soft and light enough to allow other flavors to come through and shine. This salad – the entire meal really – was certainly something special to make the grey haze and damp of today disappear.

Do you think I’ll start quacking soon if I continue my two-meal-per-day quota of duck fat? Do I mind???

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Note: Beans were slow-cooked using the Parsons Method Sandy added 3 smashed garlic cloves and some raw chopped red onion. Her batch took about 2 hours and 10 minutes to cook. Plump and juicy, with an extremely flavorful bean liquor – “exactly how beans should taste.”

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