What are they?
The world's best roast potatoes, cooked in duck fat until golden and crunchy. Traditionally from south-west France, where duck fat is more common than butter, and popularised worldwide by TV chefs Jamie Oliver, Delia Smith and Nigella Lawson, they're back on some of the best menus in town. It must be winter.
Where are they?
Surry Hills' Bishop Sessa owner Erez Gordon laughs maniacally when I ask if duck-fat potatoes sell very well. ''They're immensely popular'' he says. ''They even outsell the fries.''
The Bishop's chef Paul Cooper starts from scratch with whole ducks, confiting the legs, roasting the breasts for sausage rolls, making stock of the bones and rendering the duck fat for potatoes.
He says it's all about the temperature. ''Start low, and finish high,'' he says. ''You want to cook them through first, then crisp them at the end.''
Chef Matt Bates at Circular Quay's Cafe Sydney offers duck-fat potatoes as a special. He leaves the skin on (''it's a rustic touch, and you get a better end result'') and likes to finish the cooking with a little cold garlic butter. ''They fly out the door,'' he says.
At The Morrison in The Rocks, chef Sean Connolly twice-cooks Sebago potatoes for his duck-fat chips.
''We used to cook everything in beef dripping when I was growing up,'' the Yorkshire-born chef says. ''But duck fat gives the chips a beautifully sweet, meaty flavour.''
At Union Dining, chef Nicky Riemer cooks potatoes in duck fat, tossing them in a fennel and chilli salt for serving as a side dish. ''We partially steam Russet Burbanks from Dobson's Potatoes, then give them a good roll in duck fat and pan-roast them once, then roast them again to order,'' she says. ''I thought I was taking a risk by having fat in a vegetable dish, but no, everyone loves it.''
''It's essential to use good potatoes,'' says Stephen Drake from Port Melbourne's Rose Diner. Drake serves King Edward potatoes from Dobson's roasted in duck fat with local garlic, rosemary, thyme and sea salt, alongside the restaurant's Sunday lunch of rare roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, fresh horseradish and beer gravy. ''And remember, colour equals flavour.''
Nick Mahlook at the Stokehouse Cafe in St Kilda uses whole, unpeeled pink fir apple potatoes, boiled until tender then slow-roasted in duck fat in his pride-and-joy Josper charcoal oven until they're ''all crunchy, smoky and cracked''. ''You can't go wrong with potatoes and duck fat,'' he says. ''It's just the sort of thing you want to eat in winter.''
Why do I care?
Because the high smoking point of rendered duck or goose fat enables you to get a golden crunch without burning and without greasiness.
Bishop Sessa, 527 Crown Street, Surry Hills, 8065 7223.
Cafe Sydney, Level 5, Customs House, 31 Alfred Street, Circular Quay, 9251 8683.
The Morrison Bar and Oyster Room, 225 George Street, Sydney 9247 6744.
Union Dining, 270 Swan Street, Richmond, 9428 2988
Stokehouse Cafe, 30 Jacka Boulevard, St Kilda, 9525 5445
Rose Diner, 309 Bay Street, Port Melbourne, 9681 8550
Can I do this at home?
Yes. Render your own duck fat by cooking duck at low temperature until the fat has melted. Strain it and store in the fridge for up to one year - or buy duck or goose fat from a good food store (see Sourcing). Fry eggs in it, roast vegies, and smear over roasting chicken.
Duck-fat potatoes with garlic and rosemary
Some chefs boil the potatoes first and finish the cooking in duck fat. Serve with pan-fried fish, roast chicken or grilled steak.
800g floury potatoes (Sebago, King Edward, Russet Burbank), peeled
150g duck or goose fat
Half red onion, finely sliced
8 garlic cloves, unpeeled
4 twigs of rosemary
Sea salt and cracked black pepper
6 sprigs of thyme
1. Cut the potatoes into rough 2cm dice. Melt 100g fat in a broad frying pan and add the potatoes, red onion, garlic cloves and rosemary in a single layer (divide between two pans and use extra duck fat if necessary). Cook over gentle heat for a good 25 minutes without browning, tossing occasionally, until tender. Add the remaining fat, raise the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes or until crusty brown (you can do this last stage in the oven at 220C if you prefer).
2. Drain the potatoes (saving the duck fat for future use), toss with sea salt, pepper and extra fresh thyme and serve hot.
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