Is that duck fat in my brownie?

Nah, just kidding, of course I didn’t make brownies with duck fat. But recently the aromas of brownies and duck fat (cooking separately) in our kitchen were positively intoxicating, and made me think of an article I read many years ago when Ferran Adria was still a novelty (“Is that Ham Fat on my Cherry?”).

The point of the exercise was the exact opposite of what Adria and his disciples are known for. This was about making two classics: duck confit – starting with fresh duck legs and two jars of duck fat, and the great Brownie-off, where Glen the sailor and I were up against Betty Crocker. More on the brownies in a minute. First the duck (a picture essay will suffice).


+ leftovers from a previous can of confit in a pot =




+ 4 hours gentle cooking + 24 hours in the fridge =


+ gentle dislodging heat, then fierce pan heat =


Yes, that skin got mighty crispy, and yes the meat was falling of those skinny bones. Unfortunately the skin was also VERY salty, and – incredibly – the meat got a bit dried out during its final minutes in the oven while we waited for the third frying of some superlative frites (fried in duck fat, of course).  So the process must be repeated, perfection seekers that we are. But we did eat well that evening.

Which leads me to the brownie-off. What can I say? Our two esteemed judges were unanimous in all their rankings, and the winner was….

Betty Crocker.

The woman who does not exist, and who puts her name to a box of who-knows-what brown powder that you simply add half a cup of oil and a couple of eggs to, makes the best brownies. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: technology is wondrous stuff.

(Don’t get me wrong: of course my brownies were the real best – what do “judges” know anyway?). At least I’m not a sore loser.