Monday, November 22, 2010


Fall. Sick kids. Sleep deprivation. I just need a little help to keep me going. 

Dash is my enabler. He pours the half and half into my coffee, hands me my yoga mat, and takes the wine out of the fridge. 

Sometimes he gets a little confused. Last week, I woke up to find Dash in the kitchen with a wine opener in his hand. "Dash. Put away the wine opener. It's breakfast time. Seriously. Put it down." He started to cry. "Please put down the wine opener. Let's cook." 

 "Okay, mama." He yanked open the fridge. "Here's your lard." He's aware of all my addictions.
We scrounged through the cupboards and found Yukon gold potatoes, onions, garlic, and one beautiful winter squash. We started prepping without a plan. This is not my usual style. And with kids, it's not always recommended.
We started with the potatoes. Dash is a kinesthetic learner. His entry into any cooking project is to place his hand on the cook's wrist––be it Bella's, or the babysitter's, or mine. He FEELS how we peel, or slice, or whisk. It's also a very safe way for Dash to participate in the kitchen.

Dash held on to my husband's wrist as he peeled potatoes. And then SPLASH they went into the cold salty water.
Then he wanted to peel on his own. "I got it, daddy, I got it. BY MYSELF!"
Dash sighed after we drained the cooked potatoes. "But what are we making, mama? What's the RE-CI-PE?" He wasn't feeling grounded. We agreed on a Warm Potato and Winter Squash Salad with Roasted Garlic and Caramelized Onion and Lard Vinaigrette.

Button-up shirts make Dash tense. He climbed off his stool and disappeared into his room. Costume change. Then on to the onions. 

Dash has this onion-peeling technique in which he cranks his head as far away as possible from the onion. But he still cries, wipes his eyes with onion juice, and then cries some more. Then he starts the routine all over again.
"Mama, the knife isn't cutting so well." It's true that he was mangling the onions.
 It was was time to introduce Dash to the steel.
Unless your three-year old is a certified ninja, don't let let him hone a chef knife. It's much much safer to practice finding just the right angle with a plastic knife.
It was time to scoop the lard. Dash wanted to take a huge bite of the creamy white substance. It reminded me of the time Bella saw a scoop of vibrant green wasabi and almost put the whole thing in her mouth.

"Can I try it, mama?" asked Dash. "Lard looks like ice cream."
"Fine," I said. "Try it."

He liked it. Of course. But he also made the face my dog makes when I give him peanut butter. 
We agreed that there is nothing better than the smell of onions cooking in lard. We whisked vinegar, mustard, and olive oil into the caramelized onions. The dressing was done.

One last step. I had Dash put balsamic vinegar, olive oil, whole garlic cloves, salt, and pepper into the squash halves. I can't believe I let him pour this super expensive thick balsamic in without some help. But he did it with such care.
We threw the squash into the oven, lounged on the sofa, and talked about how batman carries a little baby batman around in his pouch when he saves the day. Big mistake for me to recline. My sleep-deprived mind went blank. I kept thinking, "What's that sweet garlicky smell? I want what my neighbors are cooking." Turns out we were the ones cooking. This is when when my husband told me it was not safe for me to drive the children around in a car.

But we didn't burn down the house. And we made up a new salad. And it was no longer morning.

"Dash, you can open the wine now."

This fall, almost every Bay Area restaurant menu has a dish made with lard, lardum, laridum, lardo, larduri or saindoux. Whatever you want to call it, it's way tasty pork fat in its rendered and unrendered forms. People are using it like it's something new when in fact it's been around forever. Some people just gave it a bad rap sometime last century.

In its rendered form it's called lard. You can use it to cook eggs, onions, and even meat or fish. It's got a bit less saturated fat than butter. It coats your tongue in a different way than other oils (a bit thicker). And the smoking point is higher than butter and extra virgin olive oil. Get it from a great butcher or a local farm and make sure it's unhydrogenated and without additives or bleach.  The kind of lard you want to buy must be refrigerated.

I've heard that leaf lard is the best for pastry because it creates a flaky crust and imparts a subtle flavor. Regular lard is rendered from many different parts of the pig while leaf lard is just from around the kidney area.

In its unrendered and cured form it's called lardo. You can sear it and serve it with salad or some poached winter fruit. Or place thin slices on top of pizza. Or wrap fish in it. Endless possibilities. It melts in your mouth.

This lard post is just the beginning for me. I've discovered a whole new world. Lard Part Two (double-lard pie crust) and Part Three (playing with lardo) are coming after Thanksgiving.

printable recipe
-This salad would be delicious served on a bed of frissée salad with crispy lardons.
-Get the squash in the oven before starting the dressing. Cook the potatoes while the onions are caramelizing.
serves 4 as a side dish
for the squash:
1 small winter squash
8 cloves unpeeled garlic
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 350° F. Cut squash in half. Place halves cut side up on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Distribute garlic, vinegar, and olive oil between the two halves. Cover with tin foil. Bake until very tender, gooey, and almost caramelized. At least an hour. Maybe more. Set aside and keep covered while cooking potatoes and dressing.

for the dressing:
2 yellow onions, peeled and diced
2 tablespoon lard (or olive oil)
sprig of thyme
1 tablespoon sherry wine vinegar
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil

Heat a sauté pan to medium heat. Add lard and let melt. Add onions, salt, pepper, and thyme. Stir occasionally. Don't let the onions brown. Once they're translucent, cover pan with a lid and turn heat down to low. Stir every 10 minutes or so. Make sure the onions don't brown. After about 45 minutes, remove the lid and burn off the excess liquid on medium heat. Add vinegar and cook for one minute. Turn off the heat. Whisk in mustard. Slowly whisk in some olive oil. Taste. If too acidic,  add more olive oi.

for the potatoes:
12 medium-sized yukon gold potatoes
1 tablespoon salt

Fill a large pot with cold water. Add salt. Peel potatoes and place them in the cold salty water right after you peel them. Bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer. Check for to see if they are done by inserting the tip of a knife. They're done when there is no resistance (about 25-30 minutes). Or just cut one open and taste. Drain, cover, and set aside until the dressing is ready.

salad assembly:
crunchy salt
handful of parsley leaves, coarsley chopped

Slice potatoes and place in a bowl.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour over a few tablespoons of dressing. Mix gently with your fingers. With a teaspoon, gently scoop out the cooked squash flesh and place scoops all over the dressed potatoes. Drizzle over more dressing. Garnish with roasted garlic and parsley. Serve immediately.


  1. I love how Dash is working the kitchen, it's so fun to see him in action at such early age, you guys are doing a great job :)

  2. I grew up cooking with my grandma who always kept bacon grease in a seperate Mason jar for cooking with. Now, I do the same thing. That smell~onions and lard~I know it from as young as Dash, and I love it too.

    I am so impressed with Dash's knife skills. I don't think I trust my little one with a sharp Global just yet. He's just entered the boy energy I don't know anything about: shooting, guns, saving the good guys from the bad guys...everything right now is a weapon. Yesterday, in between rolling out the pizza dough, the rolling pin would be wildly pointed in this and that direction, me dodging it like a crazy lady.
    In time...
    Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. Phyllis, sorry to hear about the fall blues/colds/fatigue.
    Lard does seem like it cures all ills!
    Beautiful post. Can't wait for more.
    P.S. I am still pondering what we are going to cook together some day:)
    Happy Thanksgiving to your gang.

  4. Oh LARD-Y... This posting is great. Can I rent Dash for my morning 1/2 & 1/2 pour.

    Do you have a kosher version of this post?

  5. Lard. It's time has come. It is so heartening to see that not everyone lives if fear of food. We are a crazy weird country that way.

    When can I come over for dinner?

  6. You had me at lard. Very happy to meet your blog and you.

  7. I made lemon/pesto vinaigrette. (Soak a diced shallot in 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Whisk in 1 tablespoon pesto.

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