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Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes [Hardcover]

Jennifer McLagan
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 16 2008
An appealing exploration of fat in cooking — a component of food that’s newly fashionable — with recipes and culinary history.

Duck fat. Caul fat. Leaf lard. Bacon. Ghee. Suet. Schmaltz. Cracklings. Jennifer McLagan knows and loves culinary fat and you’ll remember that you do too once you get a taste of her lusty, food-positive writing and sophisticated comfort-food recipes. Dive into more than 100 sweet and savory recipes using butter, pork fat, poultry fat, and beef and lamb fats, including Slow Roasted Pork Belly with Fennel and Rosemary, Risotto Milanese, Duck Rillettes, Bone Marrow Crostini, and Choux Paste Beignets. Scores of sidebars on the cultural, historical, and scientific facets of culinary fats as well as thirty-six styled food photos make for a plump, juicy, satisfying package for food lovers

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From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Persuasively arguing that the never-ending quest for "health" has gone too far, McLagan's elegant and informed look at this most maligned ingredient is appropriately unctuous. A crucial part of our diets, fat not only provides health benefits but pure pleasure: few ingredients can carry flavor the way fat does. Breaking the topic down into categories (butter, pork, poultry, beef-and-lamb), McLagan carefully chooses recipes that showcase the role of fat in imparting and carrying flavor. Versatile butter adds richness to pastry dough, a sweet nuttiness to Brown Butter Ice Cream, thickens classic sauces and can be used to gently poach scallops. A classic BLT gets a jolt of flavor from bacon-fat mayonnaise, and sliced Yukon Gold potatoes cooked in duck fat are practically ambrosial. While there's a fair number of indulgent dishes (3-inch bone-in ribeyes served with a red wine sauce and roasted bone marrow, a pork-fat laden twist on peanut brittle), McLagan emphasizes flavor and application over decadence. Digressions like those on the history of Crisco, fat as an art medium and a thoughtful look at foie gras are welcome and enlightening. Her mixture of science, cultural anthropology and culinary imagination are intoxicating, making this a crucial work on the topic.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“The appeal of Fat is the superb research McLagan has done on the area of fat. She explodes myths and talks history, facts and fiction with passion. Her thesis is that fat gives irreplaceable flavour to food and anyone who cuts fat from their diet loses taste and pleasure. But the book is more than that. It gives you the building blocks to understand the place of fat in our diet. It tells of cultural associations with fat and gives lots of tips. I cannot say that I always agree with her, but I hugely enjoyed reading the book, and controversy is always a flavour-enhancer.”
— Lucy Waverman, Globe and Mail

“Persuasively arguing that the never-ending quest for “health” has gone too far, McLagan’s elegant and informed look at this most maligned ingredient is appropriately unctuous…..Digressions like those on the history of Crisco, fat as an art medium and a thoughtful look at foie gras are welcome and enlightening. Her mixture of science, cultural anthropology and culinary imagination are intoxicating, making this a crucial work on the topic.”— Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Jennifer McLagan’s substantial and by no means unserious Fat…furnishes information on rendering, deep and shallow frying, grating suet, preparing marrow and a host of similar topics, filling the book’s margins with fat-related anecdotes and lore. None of which would matter if her recipes weren’t brilliant. Most of them aren’t for neophytes, but they reward the effort.”
— Craig Seligman, New York Times Book Review

“There is this new book called, quite simply, Fat. How irresistible is that? Written by Jennifer McLagan and subtitled “an appreciation of a misunderstood ingredient,” it has more appeal than most, and deliciously follows the current (formerly politically incorrect) trend of revisiting some of those treasured ingredients that have fallen upon hard times.”
— Mark Bittman, New York Times

“Best of all are the recipes, more than 100 in all, for dishes that each sound more scrumptious from the last, including puff pastry, duck confit, sautéed foie gras, rillettes, shortbread, butter chicken, cassoulet and traditional plum pudding made with grated suet that McLagan champions for its versatility and texture-enhancing properties.”
— Lesley Chesterman, The Gazette (Montreal)

“Even in the niche-happy land of cookbook publishing, Jennifer McLagan’s latest title stands out. Fat collects dozens of gourmet recipes that span a variety of cuisines and food types, but they all share a judicious use of, well, fat. The book should be celebrated for providing an education as essential to cooking as its subject.”
— Shaun Smith, Quill & Quire

“A rollicking journey through the kingdom of unrepentant, glorious, and filthy rich fat. McLagan has a superb sense of balance on the plate….”
— T. Susan Chang, Boston Globe

“I love this book! There are very few cookbooks published today that add something truly new and distinctive to the literature of food and cooking. Jennifer McLagan’s Fat is a smart, thoughtful book that ultimately asks us to understand our food better.”
— Michael Ruhlman

“McLagan's book is a smart, sensual celebration of the flavorful animal fats prized by chefs and shunned by a generation of lipo-phobes. Her French Fries in Lard may change your life forever.”— People Magazine

“An unapologetic celebration of its title ingredient and a compelling argument that explains not only why fat is a fundamental flavor but also fundamental to our health.”

“Mouth-watering is the only way to describe the recipes…The combination of traditional dishes from many countries with new creations – brown butter ice cream is just one – is likely to get anyone scurrying into the kitchen. Ms. McLagan's advocacy of animal fat as a vital ingredient that should not be a bogeyman has considerable merit.”
— Claire Hopley, Washington Post

“If obsessing over fat and calories is beginning to fall out of fashion, Jennifer McLagan is here to show the way. Along with wide ranging recipes, McLagan provides treatises on the history, the health benefits, and the uses of each type of fat. And along the way are engaging sidebars on fat-related cultural moments, literary epigrams and folk sayings.”

“Love crispy bacon, artisanal butters, flaky pastries? Be it butter or lard, fat is used by just about every culture to enhance the taste of food. Jennifer McLagan includes a variety of sweet and savory recipes that make the most of the frequently maligned ingredient.”
Bon Appetit Magazine

“The top of our holiday reading list is an extraordinary treatise on a much-maligned ingredient. Fat is the title and the sole topic of Jennifer McLagan's wide-ranging book…. It's one of those rare cookbooks that adds up to the culinary equivalent of a bodice ripper, packed with a ton of interesting social history and anecdotes that you'll want to read before jumping into the recipes.”
Vancouver Courier

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Most helpful customer reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fat and sassy March 12 2009
I bought this book for my sister, who is an amazing cook! But I couldn't resist reading a good portion of it myself. Not only is it well written, what it says about the nemesis that is fat goes a long way toward changing how we view this *natural* substance. But then it's always worthwhile to look on the other side of an issue. And in this book, the author did just that.
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5.0 out of 5 stars So charming and awesome Dec 2 2013
By Lara F
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
AS a paleo eater, I'm in love with fat. Obviously these recipes aren't paleo, but I love the respectful discussion of my favourite ingredient. I'm pouring over this happily and passing it on to my non paleo friends in a gift exchange. A kitchen class.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fat Oct. 29 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have always had trouble encouraging customers and clients (and even family) to try foods that make use of the fat and all parts of the animal. Jennifer McLagan has helped overcome this problem with her book. It gives explanations that are simple, accurate and hard to argue with. Now even some of my most serious anti-fat people are giving it a go.

Thank you Jennifer,

Doug Murray
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Terrific book Jan. 3 2011
By C. J. Thompson TOP 500 REVIEWER
This book says some things that I believe needed to be said. It really is time to reassess some of the prevailing dietary 'wisdom'. There are some great things in this book I wish to try and I enjoyed reading all the supplementary material. Some more pictures would be nice but that's only a minor quibble.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  51 reviews
81 of 83 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fat Is Not To Be Feared, It's Where The Flavor Is Nov. 16 2008
By Livin' La Vida Low-Carb Man - Published on Amazon.com
You've just gotta love a book that has a big fatty slab of meat on it! And while fat has gotten an unfair bad rap over the past few decades from the low-fat diet apologists, the fact is that fat consumption is an important part of living as healthy a lifestyle as you can. This is something Jennifer McLagan wanted to convey with her book to give people a greater "appreciation" for what is arguably the most flavorful ingredient you could put into a recipe (nope, not salt, not sugar, and not spices of any kind can compete with good old-fashioned FAT!).

From butter to meat fats, McLagan gives you quite a history lesson on the subject of fat (and you can't miss the section on where the ghastly margarine came from!) to whet your appetite for some truly incredible fat-based dishes to make. Not all of them are low in carbohydrates, but they can easily be adapted to just about any diet. Except for a low-fat one. Sorry low-fatties!
89 of 92 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great reading,Fun cooking Nov. 13 2008
By Sally H. Calligan - Published on Amazon.com
I love this book and it could be my cookbook of the year. I have a library and I have been cooking long enough that I do not really need a cookbook unless it is very good. I bought the book primarily for reading about fats and why they could be good for you. However, I have made several recipes including the above mentioned roast chicken, which was fabulous. I slow baked a lamb shoulder by her method of slow cooking. And I saved the fat to make some lamb fritters, (not of this book) frying them in the left over fat. I have baked sweet potatoes in lard inspired by the book. I have rendered lard for myself and my girls. It has all been quite fun. And now that I am having so much fun and the food is so good, I really am not sure I care about the health issues.

Here is one thing I will say, since I have cooked out of this book this week, I am not hungry or craving food.
100 of 105 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In praise of fat. Nov. 3 2008
By J. L. Rector - Published on Amazon.com
I am so tired of fat free everything these days in the grocery store, so it was a real pleasure to read about fat...glorious fat. Maybe my cholesterol is getting jacked to Jesus, but my food has flavor now that I am cooking with fat. I tried McLagan's roasted chicken recipe and it was the best chicken ever...flavorful, juicy...I swoon at the memory. I look forward to trying more of the recipes from the book as soon as I can locate sources for well marbled meats, fatty fowl, and pork bellies. My in-laws are in their eighties and have cooked with lard all their lives. They are happy, healthy, thin, and the food just tastes good. I may croak a few weeks earlier than expected, but I will go out with happy taste buds. I really enjoyed reading about fat.
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Once upon a time.... Sept. 14 2010
By Alice in AZ - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
...there was a magical land where people ate real food, and it didn't kill them. Then one day an evil wizard came along, and told everybody they had to live off lentil loaf and canola oil. And the wizard's name was--Dr. Oz!

Okay, a serious review--this is a great cookbook. I've made a few of the recipes in this book(braised oxtail and bone marrow tacos), and they are really good. But my absolute favorite part is the beginning, where McLagan discusses why animal fats are unjustly blamed for heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Dare I say the current food pyramid is a political plot? A vast left-wing conspiracy? Am I the only person who saw SOYLENT GREEN?

Of course, gentle reader, you will have to watch your portion sizes when you cook these foods--this is not an "all you can eat" air-popped whatever. The point is not to eat all you can, but to get full, and stop eating.
I especially liked this book because I just finished reading "The Vegetarian Myth", which is a much longer argument against a grain-based diet, and is chock-full of nifty scientific evidence that animal fat doesn't kill people.
But get this cookbook--you will feel like Martha Stewart and Ted Nugent all at once!
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read - Great Recipes July 21 2009
By Jason Golod - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
IF you like to cook in teflon and don't like to use anything with "oil" in the name, don't read this book.

IF you don't like eating food that you think you need an engineering degree to make, read this book.

I am not some Zen guru or yoga master...I am a guy who has always liked to cook. What I seem to notice and dislike more and more these days is that everything we seem to eat is "produced" somewhere...in some factory. For me, the beauty of cooking is in simplicity. FAT is a book that has helped me to focus on the important parts of cooking. I am not sure how accurate all of the information in the book is, but 99.99% of it just makes sense in my head...and that is what I care about.

If you love to cook or you love someone who loves to cook, then get this book. You will be happy you did.
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