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Schmaltz (i.e. Chicken Fat, Goose Fat, etc.)


Chris Amirault
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Over in my foodblog, I posted a quick and dirty recipe for baby bok choy with garlic that is the result of a lot of experimenting to find the secret to that same dish at our local Hong Kong haunt. (Click here for that.) The magic ingredient? Schmaltz, a.k.a. rendered chicken fat, in which I slowly fry the garlic before adding the bok choy. This is what heaven tastes like.

I want -- no, I need -- to know more about schmaltz. Growing up goy, I didn't eat much Jewish food, so I don't really know about how schmaltz functioned at tables and in recipes. (I do know that, back in the day, Katz's Deli on the lower east side in NYC had condiment bottles of schmaltz on the table -- and did they cook their fries in it, or is that "land of milk and honey" apocrypha?)

What did and do people use schmaltz for? Folks who work in kitchens: are there secret schmaltz shots in dishes that would surprise the unsuspecting diner?

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Its an integral part of any Jewish recipe that is starch-centered, particularly latkes and kugels. And matzo balls. And for frying up onions.

So does the good Jewish cook render her own (I seem to remember a thread by Rachel on this topic) or can one buy cooking schmaltz? Having written that, my money's on yes, one can....

edited to add: Jason, just savory kugels, yes?

Edited by chrisamirault (log)

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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:biggrin:

Gehakteh (chopped) liver

Really, schmaltz could be used in any good old Jewish (or Eatern European) recipe. The best thing to do is fry onions in it and then add those onions to other things. The flavour combo of shmaltz and onions is amazing.

We rarely use it at work anymore. Other than the already stated chopped liver - I mean, if you're eating livers, what's a little shmaltz? But for the most part people want their foods to be 'healthy'.

I know people who would spread it on bread instead of butter. That's what my father's family did when he was growing up on the farm. In those days, there was no margarine and if you're eating a meat meal, there is no butter.

Do we discuss grebens as well in this thread?

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Its an integral part of any Jewish recipe that is starch-centered, particularly latkes and kugels. And matzo balls. And for frying up onions.

So does the good Jewish cook render her own (I seem to remember a thread by Rachel on this topic) or can one buy cooking schmaltz? Having written that, my money's on yes, one can....

edited to add: Jason, just savory kugels, yes?

Schmaltz is essentially a useful byproduct of making chicken soup. You buy some really fatty and bony chicken parts, you cook up a big old pot of soup stock, and you collect the fat that solidifies on top during the cool down/gelatinization process. Its the whole philosophy behind Jewish cooking, which is not to waste anything. Technically of course this is not true schmaltz, its just congealed chicken fat, and it has a high water content, so it will spatter in the pan when you cook it, so it may require straining or some reduction to get the liquid out, but its used in the same way as schmaltz made that is is rendered in a pan from chicken skin. Its fine for frying up onions because the water in it is going to vaporize anyway in the pan.

Here is an AMAZING potato kugel utilizing schmaltz we made over the Jewish holidays:

http://recipes.egullet.org/recipes/r1419.html

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Do we discuss grebens as well in this thread?

Oh my, yes. Found that thread by Rachel, btw: clickety.

Well, as kids we always ate them as is... as a forshpeiz. Whoever got to Baba's house first on a Friday night got first dips on them. Haven't had them more than a few times since she passed away.. but oh! what memories!

As Rachel said, some use them for garnish on things like chopped liver, and I suppose they could be used as the kosher version of ... bacon bits?

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I know people who would spread it on bread instead of butter.  That's what my father's family did when he was growing up on the farm.  In those days, there was no margarine and if you're eating a meat meal, there is no butter.

One of the many stories my mom told me about growing up in New York's Lower East Side in the 1930s was about eating schmaltz on spaghetti. All I can say is that she must have had a heartburn-proof GI tract when she was a kid. The stuff is delicious, but man can it ever give you that "fire in the belly." :rolleyes:

(Sorta tangentially, I remember hearing Buddy Hackett on Carson or something tell a story about leaving home to go in the army, and getting concerned that something was wrong with him. In actuality, unbeknownst to him, he'd had heartburn his whole life up until going into the army and, for the first time, eating food cooked by somebody other than his mother. "I thought my pilot light had blown out," he said. :laugh: My bet was that his mom cooked with a ton of schmaltz. It will do that to you.)

Myself, I remember my mom saving up hunks of fat from various chickens for months on end, squirreling them all away in the freezer, and then rendering a whole bunch of schmaltz in one go for a holiday batch of gehakte liver. Most of the gribenes would go in the chopped liver, but a certain amount of it would get noshed by my mom and me. Holiday chopped liver was pretty much the only thing we ever used either schmaltz or gribenes for--we too had gotten assimilated enough to aspire to somewhat "healthier" eating.

I made a little batch of shmaltz and gribenes a few months ago--the gribenes was as yummy as I remember, but damn, I cannot eat more than a little bit of it at a time anymore--way too rich for me at this point.

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The ne plus ultra of cooking fats! The tradition I am part of removes fat from the chicken carcass, along with the skin - remember buying whole chickens instead of those parted out like the nuts and bolts selection in a hardward store?. If need be, the fat was hoarded in the fridge or freezer until critical mass was reached. It went into a deep cast iron frying pan, with a sliver of yellow onion, and that was either set on a low flame on the stove, or else put in a low oven. Several hours later, the fat had rendered into liquid gold, and the skin had cooked up into crunchy, crispy grebenes, which make the best kugel, and when salted and noshed, are heaven. Jewish chicharrones. We strained the slightly cooled, but still liquid fat into a jar, and into the refrigerator it went.

And then it went into dumplings. Or to fry the onions and saute the chicken livers for gehakte leber. To sear a brisket for tzimmes or cholent. To fry onions and kasha for knishes or for kasha varnishkes. And as a schmear on a chunk of rye, pumpernickle, or black bread.

The schmaltz canape reached its apogee, at least in my book, at a Roumanian restaurant in NYC called The Parkway: the amuse guele was a small dish of coarse salt, a fan of denseley divine black bread, a dish of shredded black radish, and a diner-style waffle syrup jar full of schmaltz. One anointed a lovely paving stone of the black bread with a generous plop of schmaltz, followed by a small haystack of the black radish, the whole topped by a sprinkling of the coarse salt. I weep thinking of it.

Schmaltz IS the food of the gods. And yes you can buy it ... and you can also buy the nastiest of imitations: Nyafat. Feh! The fat cap from stock or soup will do in a pinch, but it is not quite the same as good old skillet hendered chicken fat with a scent of onion. It's easy to make ... the only trick these days is getting a good chicken with skin and fat to make it from.

Thanks for the walk down memory lane. Now will someone please go to Kossar's and have a bialy fest and report back on that????

Theabroma

Sharon Peters aka "theabroma"

The lunatics have overtaken the asylum

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at the restaurant we habitually save any fat that we happen to render, and the bulk of this is chicken fat, followed very closely by bacon fat. over time, and through confusion in the walk-in amongst our more, shall we say, spanish speaking peers, the various fats tend to combine into a huge bucket of all-purpose confit-makin'/lardon-cookin'/sweet potato poachin'/potato-brownin' animal fat. the result is an extremely flavorful, if not so much michelin-level, cooking medium that we like to call "meat fat." schmaltz is actually my favorite component of this melange. many chefs might prefer duck fat, but i find that a nicely clarified schmaltz is actually more rich, just as abundant [read: free], and more neutral than duck fat... but then again, we get really nice chickens here. i feel that i am about to wax poetic about chicken fat, so i will now stop typing... but i will say that i do prefer duck fat for searing brussels sprouts.

Will cook for food.

jasonbissey@yahoo.com

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I believe schmaltz was originally goose fat. At least according to my German grandmother.

In the states you can buy frozen rendered schmaltz, but my mother and grandmothers always rendered their own. I also render my own chicken fat, but I also buy goose fat. They sell it either frozen, which I have the butcher cut into small chunks so I can use a little at a time or I buy it in already rendered in a jar.

I will be cooking my latkes in goose fat and will post pictures in December. I can also show you how I render the fat.

Chris, basically I take the fat from either side of the breast in the inside of a whole chicken. I wrap it in saran wrap and place it in a zip lock bag in the freezer. I do not render the fat, in otherwords cook it, until I am ready to use it.

I only use my schmaltz for cooking, I do not spread it on dark bread. There are a few restaurants here in Israel that serve schmaltz with bread as a vorspeise.

Edited by Swisskaese (log)
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Let it be known here and abroad, oyez, oyez, that schmaltz, whether from goose fat as was originally intended or chicken fat, is not to be thought of as an item of food. Simply stated, and with no exaggeration whatsoever, schmaltz is god's gift to humankind, a gift so great that the mere thought of spreading it thickly on good country-style bread is enough to elevate mere mortals to an understanding of why kings are greeted by trumpets, why angels fly and why fairy-godmothers exist.

As to gribenes (the cracklings made from rendered goose fat), a treat so great that no poet, author or even demi-god has ever succeeded in describing it with mere words.

As to the combination of schmaltz and gribenes, let it be known that there is a law (not from Mt Sinai perhaps but certainly from one of the highest of the Alps) that even when thinking of these one is required to bow one's head in acknowledgement of the greatness of the universe.

And that, by heaven, is where I stand.

Edited by Daniel Rogov (log)
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Let it be known here and abroad, oyez, oyez, that schmaltz, whether from goose fat as was originally intended or chicken fat, is not to be thought of as an item of food.  Simply stated, and with no exaggeration whatsoever, schmaltz is god's gift to humankind, a gift so great that the mere thought of spreading it thickly on good country-style bread is enough to elevate mere mortals to an understanding of why kings are greeted by trumpets, why angels fly and why fairy-godmothers exist. 

As to gribenes (the cracklings made from rendered goose fat), a treat so great that no poet, author or even demi-god has ever succeeded in describing it with mere words. 

As to the combination of schmaltz and gribenes, let it be known that there is a law (not from Mt Sinai perhaps but certainly from one of the highest of the Alps) that even when thinking of these one is required to bow one's head in acknowledgement of the greatness of the universe.

And that, by heaven, is where I stand.

And where you stand is the best description I have heard yet. I agree whole clogged heartedly.

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Ah, it's been way too long since I did a butt. - Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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One summers evening drunk to hell, I sat there nearly lifeless…Warren

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Oooooh, sounds like something I have to try! My Jewish grandmother wasn't much of a cook, so I've never had schmaltz in my life! Do you think a German specialty foods store would carry it? I live in Yorkville, so there's one literally a block from my apartment (very convenient when one needs a hare or a stein).

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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Do you think a German specialty foods store would carry it?

They might - or a good deli. I can't tell you how much shmaltz we get rid of around here. We make large batches of chicken soup .. and can't use much ourselves. We give some away to customers, but unfortunately, there's more supply than demand.

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Do you think a German specialty foods store would carry it?

They might - or a good deli. I can't tell you how much shmaltz we get rid of around here. We make large batches of chicken soup .. and can't use much ourselves. We give some away to customers, but unfortunately, there's more supply than demand.

Thanks! Come to think of it, there's a kosher butcher in my block as well, so I will check that out, too. Mmmmmm, potatoes cooked in shmaltz are definitely on the menu this weekend. And maybe it's time for me to embrace my heritage and tackle kugel! :biggrin:

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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