One of the old-fashioned staples of Jewish cooking was to render chicken fat into schmaltz. Schmaltz was used in a lot of Jewish dishes as a sort of super-chicken stock, providing extra flavor to latkes, matzo ball soup, etc.
Of course, in the really old days, just as many ethnic groups used various kinds of drippings as a butter alternative in sandwiches or on just bread, congealed schmaltz also got used as a bread topping.
The schmaltz-making process also produces “gribenes,” a sort of chicken skin cracklings cooked with onions. Observant Jewish cooks compare this to a sort of kosher bacon!
If you look around, you will see that there are various opinions on ways to make schmaltz, how long to cook it, onions/none, etc. So there’s creativity even in cooking down fat!
One of the simpler ways to use schmaltz in its oil form is to bake a kugel out of noodles (or matzo meal for Passover) mixed with eggs, schmaltz, onions, and possibly some kind of meat.
I am concerned with all this because yesterday I baked The World’s Drippingest Chicken Thighs, and they left a huge amount of chicken fat in the baking pan. My schmaltz isn’t pure, but I bet I can bake me a kugel. Or latkes.
Mmmm, potato pancakes. With applesauce. The perfect fall dish. You can also eat them with sour cream. Mmmmmmmm.
In my family, we mostly make potato pancakes to use up mashed potatoes. But you can just start with the potato, too. Either way, you basically put in egg to hold it together, maybe a little flour, maybe a little milk, maybe onions too. Then you make pancakes, and stick ‘em on the skillet with some butter or oil to fry ‘em in (in this case, schmaltz).
A fair number of people these days seem to be making sweet potato pancakes. Mmmmm, I bet that’s good too.