Posted by: Erica | January 4, 2010

The Skinny on Fat

The other day I mentioned the possibility of blogging my way through a year of Paula Deen recipes, and within minutes there was something cooking alright–a controversy.  Poor Paula!  I think of her as an icon of Southern cuisine.  Apparently, however, the icon more popularly associated with her is a giant-sized stick of butter.  Let me say, I know and understand the health concerns that are being raised.  However, I think that Paula is unfairly being singled-out, and butter, too, for that matter.  Paula shouldn’t take all the heat for recipes that employ liberal amounts of saturated fat when there are certainly more cooks in that kitchen!

Here’s an example from my own recipe file.  (Those of you who have sampled my potato gratin–look away.)  I was entertaining a group of co-workers for a Christmas dinner at my house a few years ago, when my boss approached me after tasting my aforementioned side-dish.  “Erica, those have got to be the best potatoes I have ever tasted.  I would probably be scared to know how much butter you used, though.”  My quick reply was this, “Actually, there’s no butter in them at all.”  But, inside my head I was doing my evil laugh, because although I had not used a single smidgen of butter, my recipe for potato gratin calls for an entire quart of heavy whipping cream. 

So, here’s my point.  Saturated fat is saturated fat.  And there are plenty of cooks and cooking styles that rely upon them.  Is Mexican your fav food?  How many dishes come with sour cream and cheese?  French your forte?  Do you even realize what mousse is–eggs and cream.  Italian?  Look up a recipe for pasta and you’ll find at least a half dozen eggs.  And I won’t even mention alfredo sauce. Oops!  Oh, well, let’s skip to dessert.  Pastry–butter.  Pies–eggs.  Cheesecake–enough said. 

But back to Paula.  Personally, I think by looking at the butter in her recipes, we have failed to applaud her for steering southern cooking away from the negative association it once held because of lard.  Pork fat, for you young’ens.  And, if you still don’t think that Paula is getting served an unfair portion of bitterness, check out Emeril on wikipedia:

 When frying or making dishes like sausage, Lagasse advocates using genuine lard, boasting, “Pork fat rules!”

And, I don’t hear anyone running Emeril’s recipes through the food grinder.  Really, I’m not a Paula person.  I have eaten at her restraunt and frankly, was really disappointed with her chicken and fried green tomatoes.  Because of this, I could never limit myself to a year of her dishes alone.  Although some of her foods are considered staples at my house, my personal cooking style has been formed from a foundation of many culinary experts, my mother and grandma included.  And it is because I have sampled from a variety of sources that I can tell you that all great cooks have their saturated fat of choice…. Paula’s just so happens to be butter.  So, if you are sour on Paula but your standby recipe calls for cheese (or cream…or eggs…or the rendering of bacon), then I hate to say it, but you may be a proverbial pot calling out her master kettle.

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