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Higher Learning: Pork Fat Roasted Chicken

Higher Learning: Pork Fat Roasted Chicken
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Monthly Feature
Vivek is back! And we are all smarter for it.

Roasted chicken is a pretty simple dish. A whole chicken, rubbed down in some oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and roasted in a hot oven is one of the most comforting meals one can have. It’s delicious, beautiful, and a classic in it’s own right.

But over here at Higher Learning, we’re trying to elevate your everyday meals to make them into memorable experiences. The inspiration for this dish came from this fairly popular trend of cooking potatoes in duck fat. I live in Nashville, and it seems as if every single restaurant now has “duck fried potatoes”, or “duck fat fried tater tots” (which are awesome, btw). And to be honest, it tastes awesome.

So then I figured, what if I can play around with classic dishes and change the type of fat. Voila, we have a worthy post!

I actually made this on Sunday while watching some football games (Go Titans!). I cut up a chicken into 8 parts and seared them in pork fat that I had rendered myself when making another dish. I melted a good amount of fat into my large saute pan, and then browned the chicken on both sides until the skin was crispy. I think put the chicken pieces skin side down in the pan, added a ton of herbs, and stuck it in the oven to roast.

Now, let’s be honest. Pork fat is the king of all fats (hello…bacon?!). It’s creamy, it’s unctuous, and it’s (supposedly) not as bad for you as butter. It’s a win-win-win, if you will. The flavor of the pork fat permeates the chicken, and also makes the skin incredibly crispy. And crispy chicken skin may be my favorite part of eating a roast chicken.

But the fact is that it’s a roast chicken with a different kind of fat. It doesn’t seem like a huge deal. But in fact, it tastes like a completely different dish. Just one little change – using pork fat instead of oil or butter – made such a huge difference that it really made the roast chicken…better. It’s so cool – think about pork fat fried potatoes, or steaks that have been brushed with pork fat and grilled, or bacon, dare I say, cooked in pork fat. The possibilities are endless. Try out some different fats – duck fat, goose fat, beef fat (suet), or even chicken fat (schmaltz) for my Jewish friends on this holiday weekend. Go wild, go crazy. Fat is your friend. Embrace it.

Pork Fat Roasted Chicken
(recipe courtesy of Vivek Surti)

1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces (2 wings, 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, 2 breasts, bone in and skin on)
1/4 cup pork fat (or lard)
10 sprigs of thyme
3 sprigs of rosemary
6 cloves of garlic, unpeeled and crushed
1 lemon, zested
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Get a big, wide pan over high heat. Melt the pork fat in the pan until it is almost smoking. Season the chicken with salt, pepper, and lemon zest and put in the pan, skin side down. Allow the skin to crisp, about 5-6 minutes until it is a deep golden brown. Flip the chicken over and brown the other side. If there is not enough fat in the pan, add a tablespoon or more pork fat. Flip the chicken once more so the skin side is down and add all the herbs and garlic, so they lay on top of the chicken. Baste with some of the fat.

Stick it in a 400 degree oven until the chicken is cooked all the way through (about 160 degrees internal temperature). Remove the herbs/garlic and then put the chicken on a plate to rest. Allow resting for about 5 minutes. Squeeze the lemon juice over the top and enjoy.

Cheers,
Vivek

Editor’s Note: Please check out Vivek’s popular food blog!