Saturday, January 3, 2009

Mangalitsa Fat

Remember last year when I paid a bunch of money to try the new and improved pork, mangalitsa? Well, knowing that the fat from the mangalitsa was the most prized part of this pig, I saved the copious amounts that cooked off of my roast by putting tablespoon-sized lumps of the chilled, solidified fat in the freezer. I've used the fat throughout the year, whenever I remember it mostly. But the other night my final tablespoon of mangalitsa fat transformed an ordinary chicken thigh into an extraordinary meal. I made sure that the chicken was very dry, then doused it liberally with salt and pepper. The fat was heated until it was almost smoking, then I browned the chicken on each side for about 5 minutes before tenting the pan with foil and putting it in the oven. I cooked it at 375° for about 15 minutes, flipping it once. I can't explain how the fat made the chicken taste so delicious, but it was just, well, extremely tasty. The fat had created a crispy and succulent crust on the outside (even despite the fact that it was skinless), while the meat inside was juicy, tender, and dripping with flavor. The chicken was just your average grocery store bird, so maybe all of their claims about this miraculous fat are right? Who would have thought that something we take for granted every day, simple fat, could be so significant and transformative. So save your fat!


Heath said...

Ellen -- I'm happy the Manglitsa fat was able to turn your grocey store bird into a something very tasty.

Mangalitsa fat is special because of its chemical composition. It tastes lighter and more "clear" than other fats.

This is why the jowls and the belly are the most sought after cuts - they are the lardiest and most flavorful.

Here's a typical fancy thing that people do with the fat. You don't have to use the rendered belly fat - leaf lard and fatback work as well.

Pure Mangalitsa fat (leaf lard or fatback) is affordable. You only need a little bit, so it is a tremendous value.

Here's another example where fat from Wooly Pigs greatly improved things - although they actually bought fat from my Berkshire hogs, not Mangalitsas.

Heath said...

Ellen -- I forgot to mention. Besides importing the pigs, we imported techniques of raising pigs so that they produce the best fat.

The quality of fat is very influenced by breed, diet and other factors. I make sure the pigs are finished on feed that gives them the best fat feasible.

Spanish jamon producers get scientific about it.

You might want to check out the 2009 Jan/Feb issue of Saveur. On page 20, there's a thing about Mangalitsa pigs.

what's cookin', good lookin'? said...

Not sure if it'll be a regular thing, but La Pasta had Mangalista Ravioli a couple weeks back that were really delicious. I highly recommend grabbing some.