Food for Thought

Get your ticket to the duck fat follies

Repeat after me: “Duck fat.”

Go ahead, say it.

“Duck fat.”

A substance created by a higher power, golden, greasy goodness dedicated to a more sublime role than most other foods.

The ultimo fat. Uber fat. Fat of all fats.

Not something, like an oil, that you would want to use in a salad dressing. But, boy howdy, for frying — think potatoes — or for poaching … nectar of the gods.

“Yikes,” I hear some of you health freaks say. “Duck fat? What do want to do, totally block your coronary arteries?

Excusé moi, but duck fat is a (somewhat) healthy addition to the ingredient arsenal. There are many folks out there, dressed in white lab coats, who swear it is high in polyunsaturates and crammed with heart-healthy selenium.

Is it true?

Who cares; it’s just the ticket as far as I’m concerned. Because of the way it tastes … and makes things taste.

Gotta find me some duck fat.


I’ve got a cassoulet jones, and it ain’t lettin’ go of me until I make and, of course, consume a super pile of that wonderful French classic.

It’s been a few years since I whipped up cassoulet and a visit to a favorite book the other night reminded me I need to do it again, that book being Robert Freson’s “A Taste of France,” in which he details a Cassoulet de Toulouse”— a fine template for any of a large number of variations.

I need to make cassoulet.


It is winter; cassoulet is the ideal winter food and, incidentally, the ultimate blanket lifter for those of you sensitive to legumes who get a charge out of a good go-round with gas.
The problem: duck fat (or goose fat, if I go for a suitable alternative).

Why, Karl, you ask, is duck fat a problem?

Allow me to answer: I can’t make duck or chicken confit without duck fat. Or any respectable confit, for that matter.

And I can’t make the cassoulet of my dreams without duck or chicken confit.


Problem, part two: I am not going to find duck fat here in Siberia With a View. Not rendered duck fat, high grade, exquisite, ready to do the heavy lifting confitwise.

I know I can order it on the Internet and I cruise some sites.

I find quite a few places abroad that offer duck fat at a seemingly reasonable price (though, I admit, I am nearly inept when it comes to the Euro/dollar exchange thing).

There’s a swell establishment — Calnan Bros. — with locations in Didcot and Warlington, Oxfordshire. I have a hunch the nifty price (if I figure it right) will jump off the charts if I request next-day delivery.

There’s also a magnificent wholesale joint in Trimble, Missouri, that offers duck fat to restaurants. According to its Web site, the shop staff is preparing for Wurstfest. Does it get better than that? The place also offers a wide range of kangaroo meats, wild boar loin at 18.95 per pound and a variety of cuts of ostrich. If I am ever in Trimble, I am stopping in. This place sounds like the Louvre of meat products.

Unfortunately, the duck fat comes in 20-pound packs, nothing smaller. I crave the stuff, but not 20-pounds of crave. That’s a whole lot of confit and frites, and I’m getting old.

There’s a bunch of joints in Miami that sell duck fat. Miami is quite a distance from here, isn’t it?

Then, it hits me: My brother.

If anyone has a source for duck fat, it is my brother, Kurt: The Confit Kid. The master of all foods obscure.

I call his home number.

It has been disconnected. I suspect my nephew, Carter, has again prompted too many calls from the irate parents of high school girls. Two or three of the calls per night is a nuisance. When irritated, disconnect the landline; let the kid field his own calls on his own line.

I dial up Kurt’s cell.

He doesn’t hesitate: “Duck fat? By all means.”

Easy as that.

An hour later, I get a call back from Kurt. “I am standing in my favorite specialty meat market. They have pound tubs of delightful looking duck fat. How many do you want?”

On my request, he purchases two pounds of the heavenly grease, frozen, and spirits them home to his freezer. We work out a deal: the duck fat for a bottle of La Demarrante. A fair trade.

When Kathy goes to Denver next week to see family, she’ll scoot by Kurt’s house, engage in some harmless banter, make the swap, pop the frozen duck fat in a cooler with dry ice and, six hours later or so, Karl hits the proverbial jackpot.

Then, just into the new year, cassoulet.


I will order some fresh Toulouse-style sausage and some French garlic sausage online, about a pound of each (I’ll probably have to order more, and save some for other, equally special applications). The rest of the ingredients I can find here in Siberia With a View. This is, after all, a fairly simple, French peasant dish, with not a lot of ingredients to find and buy.

First, the beans. Great Northern. Two pounds, dry — enough for cassoulet to feed 10 to 12 people. Gotta share.

Second, meat. Lots o’meat. I’ll need some pork shoulder and some lamb shoulder — a little more than a pound of each. I’ll need a couple pork hocks. I am not going to locate three or four duck legs here, so I resign myself to making chicken confit. I will need three or four each of drumsticks and thighs.

On the veggie side of the store, I’ll purchase several carrots, several white onions, two heads of garlic, four or five ripe Roma tomatoes (any bets here?) and the herbs needed for bouquet garni and other key seasoning: some parsley sprigs, some sprigs of fresh thyme, a real bay leaf or four.

The dish will be assembled in a three-day process.

Step one: confit.

Duck fat.

I’ll remove the extra fat from the chicken then put two of the drumstick/thigh combos in a glass dish, skin sides up. I’ll sprinkle them with a tablespoon or so of Kosher salt and some freshly ground black pepper and lay about 10 peeled cloves of garlic on top of them, along with a couple bay leaves and some sprigs of fresh thyme. On top of that mess, I’ll put the other pieces of chicken, skin sides down. I’ll sprinkle them with a quarter tablespoon or so of the salt, cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Day two: I’ll take the chicken out of the dish, rinse in cool water, remove most of the salt , pepper and herbs and dry thoroughly. Thoroughly. I’ll take the garlic and the thyme (not the bay leaves’— too much of a good thing) and put them in a deep enameled pan. I’ll sprinkle them with some salt and throw in a little more than a teaspoon of black peppercorns. The dried chicken (thoroughly dry — can’t emphasize this too many times, after all, we’re talking hot fat here) goes on top, in a single layer, and the collection is covered with molten duck fat.

Into a 200 degree oven it will go — overnight. For at least 12 hours. That same night, I’ll rinse and pick over the beans, cover them with water and let them sit overnight on the counter.

Day three: Rise early; there’s at least six hours of stove and oven time ahead. Out comes the chicken, the pieces are removed from the fat and the meat is pulled away from the bone and left in fairly large chunks. The cooled fat is strained into a large jar. The jar is covered and the fat goes in the fridge for another use.

I’ll drain the beans, put them in the pot with nearly three quarts of water, the pork hocks, half of the pork shoulder, cut into several large hunks, a bouquet garni, a couple carrots peeled and cut into large chunks, an onion peeled and cut in half, a couple tomatoes chunked up, three cloves of garlic, smashed, (no salt or pepper at this point), bring to a boil, then simmer until tender, about 2 1/2 hours.

When the beans go on to the heat, I’ll start the meat mix. I’ll cut the lamb into cubes, cut the remaining pork shoulder into cubes, slice the sausages, chop two onions, three cloves of garlic and three more tomatoes and tie up another bouquet garni.

Duck fat.

I’ll brown off the lamb and pork in duck fat (never crowding the pan, removing each small batch to a heated plate while the next batch browns), throw in the onion and garlic and cook for a bit. In will go the browned meats, tomato, the bouquet garni, a couple ladles full of the bean liquid, a bit of salt and freshly-ground black pepper. I’ll cover and simmer over very low heat for 90 minutes or so. At that point, into some hot duck fat go the muscular slices of sausage. When the slices toast up a bit, they go into the meat mix.

The oven is preheated to 350.

I’ll take the carrots and onion out of the beans and feed them to the garbage disposal. I’ll take out the hocks and remove the meat and chop. Same with the pieces of shoulder.

Freson recommends rubbing the large earthenware pot in which the cassoulet is to be baked with a sliced clove of garlic. Sounds swell to me.

Half the beans go into the pot (with their now very soupy cooking liquid). All the meats then go in, including hunks of confit. The mess is brought to a boil on the stovetop, the surface is dusted with dried breadcrumbs (homemade, please) and the pot goes into the oven.

Here’s the trick: A crust will form on top of the beans every 15 to 20 minutes. That crust must be broken and turned into the bean mix. A new dusting of breadcrumbs goes on and, 15 to 20 minutes later, it is broken and turned in. Five, six, seven times, with the final crust left on until browned. For 90 minutes to two hours.


Duck fat. Beans, meats, garlic.

Nothing else is necessary, except some heavy-duty bread, some butter, a fine Languedoc red. A salad is permissible, if one absolutely needs to eat something green.

And, I can use the now flavored duck fat again.

Twice-cooked frites, anyone? With a ribeye, grilled medium rare?

Perhaps another night.


What's Cookin?

Mocha Fudge Bread Pudding

1/3 cup 1 percent low-fat milk
1 cup hot strong brewed coffee
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup egg substitute
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Dash of salt
2 large egg whites
8 cups 1-inch cubed white bread
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine milk, hot coffee, brown sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring until brown sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Add egg substitute, vanilla, salt and egg whites, stirring with a whisk.

3. Combine egg mixture and bread in a large bowl, tossing gently to coat. Let stand for 30 minutes.

4. Spoon half of bread mixture into an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray and sprinkle evenly with chocolate chips. Top chocolate chips with remaining bread mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until center is set. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Yields 9 servings.


Henry Martì Espoy

Henry Martì Espoy, 90, passed away Monday Nov. 6, 2007, in Indian Wells, Calif. He was born in San Francisco, Calif. A victim of Parkinson’s disease, he spent the last 13 years of his life between his Pagosa Springs home and his desert home in Indian Wells, Calif.

His parents, Angel and Conchita Espoy, were from Barcelona, Spain. Henry is survived by his wife, Wilma, of 62 years; two adult sons, Mark and Yale, daughters-in-law, Denise and Mare, and four grandchildren, Ryan, Jacqueline, Kale and Conor.

Before retiring in Pagosa Springs in 1993, he was the owner of Associated Laboratories in Orange, Calif. Prior to that he was the owner of Terminal Testing Laboratories in Los Angeles, Calif. He received a master’s degree in chemistry from UCLA in 1941. Henry was active in both the American Chemical Society and the Food Technologist of Southern California.

He will be missed very much by his family and friends.

Raymond Johnson

Raymond Edward Johnson, 83, of Westminster Colo., passed away Dec. 7, 2007. Raymond was born Sept. 6, 1924, in Pagosa Springs, Colo., to Earle and Dora Johnson. He married Minnie M. Hotz of Pagosa Springs, and that union has lasted for 61 years. At the age of 17, he joined the Navy and served in the Pacific. He later joined the Air Force and made a career of serving his country. In 1960, he moved his family to Westminster, where he lived in the family home for 47 years. Raymond is survived by his wife, Minnie (Hotz) Johnson, of Westminster, daughter, Juanita Bellacosa, of Westminster, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by a daughter, Ramona Uptain. Internment was at Crown Hill in Denver.

Fred Martinez, Sr.

Fred Martinez, Sr., died peacefully in his Pagosa Springs home, surrounded by his family, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2007. He was born to Eugenio Martinez and Siria Abeyta Martinez in Lumberton, N.M., March 24, 1934. As a youngster, he attended school in a one-room house in Edith, Colo.

At the age of 17, he enlisted in the United States Army. From May of 1953 to October of 1954, he served in the Korean War. From December of 1954 to September of 1956, he was stationed in West Germany. In October of 1956 through February of 1958, he was stationed in Fort Carson, Colo., where he was in charge of training advanced Army trainees. During this time, he met and married Lenore Griego in Pagosa Springs, Colo., in February of 1958. Together, they raised six children. The center of their lives was their great love of family and their great love of the outdoors. Some of their favorite pastimes included family get-togethers, picking pinon, hauling wood for the winter, and camping. From February of 1959 to April of 1960, he served a second tour in Korea. From 1960 to 1962, he trained Army rangers with the 6th Ranger training battalion in Dealonega, Georgia, during the summer, and in Pensacola, Florida, in the winter. From September, 1962 to August, 1964, he served a second tour in Germany. He finally came home. Hallelujah!

Fred worked for the U.S. Forest Service for many years. He retired from the U.S. Forest Service in 1985. He took pride in his strong work ethic. He also took pride in his yard, and planting and caring for his blue spruce and aspen trees.

Fred Martinez is survived by his spouse of 49 years, Lenore Martinez (they would have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary Feb. 5, 2008, with a big party); three sons: Fred Martinez, Jr., and wife, Elizabeth, of Pagosa Springs; Marty Martinez, of Chama, N.M.; and Gerald Martinez and wife, Tina, also of Chama, N.M.; three daughters: Maria Martinez-Gallegos and husband, Baltazar, of Pagosa Springs; Annette Martinez and husband, Stan, of Pagosa Springs; and Patricia Daniels and husband, Carlton, of Donalsonville, Ga. He is also survived by 12 special grandchildren: Ashley and husband Chris Torres, of Pagosa Springs; Angela and husband, Devon Schrader, of Fort Bragg, Calif.; Jeremy Gallegos; Leslie, Emily and Alexa Martinez; James, Patrick and Jessee Martinez, all of Pagosa Springs; Mikhail Daniels of Donalsonville, Ga.; and Mereya and Jake Martinez of Chama, N.M. He is assured that his legacy continues to live on through two great-grandsons: Khailen Daniels, of Donalsonville, Ga., and Kaeden Rhys Schrader, of Fort Bragg, Calif.

He is survived by three brothers: Conrado Martinez, of Cedar Hill, N.M.; Eugene Martinez, of Edith, Colo.; and Donald Martinez, of Rio Rancho, N.M.; and three sisters: Alice Maez, of Aztec, N.M.; Ramona Turbeville, of San Antonio, Tex.; and Cleo Apodaca, of Denver, Colo. He is also survived by numerous nieces, nephews, relatives and friends.

Fred Martinez was preceded in death by his father, Eugenio Martinez; his mother, Siria Abeyta Martinez Trujillo; his sister, Lorenza Becker; his brother, Leo V. Martinez; and his granddaughter, LaTara Daniels.

Although he will be sorely missed, his family takes great comfort in knowing that the “palomita” has been set free. Every time one soars freely in the heavens above, they know that he is watching over them and anxiously awaiting their reunion.

A mass of Christian burial was held for Fred Martinez Friday, Dec. 7, 2007, at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church. Interment took place at Hilltop Cemetery, with Father Carlos Alvarez officiating.

Stella Santisteven

Stella M. Santistevan, 74, died Monday, Dec.17, 2007, in Durango, Colo. 

Mrs. Santistevan was born Feb. 1, 1933, in La Boca, Colo., the daughter of William and Ruth Monte.  She grew up in Ignacio and she attended school at the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA)/Ute Vocational School.  She was a cheerleader in high school and she loved sports, baseball, volleyball and football.  In adulthood, her husband, Louie, died at a young age so she took the reigns of rearing her children, going so far as to teach them the sports she loved.  In addition, she performed ranching tasks, such as bucking hay bales and fencing. 

 “It was a tough time, but she always did what it took to provide for us,” remembers her daughter, Florann.

 Mrs. Santistevan worked numerous jobs supporting her family, and she finished school at an adult age while her kids were in high school.

 One of her favorite careers was as a dorm matron at the BIA dorms in Ignacio.  The kids respected her and she loved her interaction with them.  Mrs. Santistevan was an excellent seamstress.  

 “She was helpful to many, well liked and never let anyone down,” said her son, Don.

 She is survived by Florann Howe (daughter), of Ignacio; Steve Burch (son), of Ignacio, Reggie Howe (son), of Ignacio, Don Howe (son), of Ignacio, Steven Santistevan (step-son), of Espanola, N.M.; Hilda Burch (stepdaughter), of Ignacio; Tony Monte (brother), of Ignacio; Dell Solomon (sister), of Ignacio, Martha Garcia (sister), of Aztec, N.M.; numerous nieces and nephews, 20 grandchildren, 44 great-grandchildren, and two great-great-grandchildren.

 She was preceded in death by her father, William, her mother, Ruth, husband, Charlie Santistevan, grandson, Lonnie Howe, two sons, Gerald Howe and Rudolph Howe, two brothers, John Monte and Lawrence Monte, and her sister, Tosha Monte.