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Health May 2012

Rainbow Kitchen

Fear Fats? Time to Dump Those Old Phobias

By Allison St. Claire

What does appear to do all the artery clogging are grains and sugars – i.e. CARBS. And for all of us who thought eating low-fat foods would keep the weight off, are finally getting it that since we started eating that way, obesity has soared.

Remember when foods used to taste a whole lot better? And had terrific “mouth feel?” And kept hunger at bay for hours after you ate?

Remember the truly good fats we cooked with and ate before lopsided farm subsidies and mass marketing convinced us (alas, successfully) that we should no longer slather our bread with butter, or fry potatoes in lard or duck fat, or make chopped liver in plenty of chicken fat? When even McDonald’s fried its incredible french fries in beef tallow? And we happily downed full-fat milk and ice cream?

And before we accepted the ultimate oxymoron – low-fat or even no-fat cream!

Fortunately, enough independent (read: non-marketing) studies have finally reached a critical mass and the “fat makes you fat” and the always misguided “fat clogs your arteries, raises cholesterol, and causes heart disease” myths are being debunked and discarded. (Best resources: Gary Taubes, Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It, and Mary Enig, Eat Fat, Lose Fat.) Both are based on sound science and thorough research.

Hooray, we can finally get rid of that “artery-clogging” description that seemed to automatically attach itself to “fats.”

What does appear to do all the artery clogging are grains and sugars – i.e. CARBS. And for all of us who thought eating low-fat foods would keep the weight off, are finally getting it that since we started eating that way, obesity has soared.

The biggest problem is that whenever food processors eliminated fats they loaded on the carbs to take their place.

I had a really hard time accepting an unnatural food product called low-fat or no-fat half and half when I first saw it. It's basically skim milk with corn syrup solids, artificial color, sugar, carrageenan (a seaweed based emulsifier and thickener), and “natural” (read: chemically formulated) and artificial flavors added to simulate the missing cream.

According to fat Nutritional information for standard half milk-half cream shows 13% carbs, low-fat has 19% carbs, and fat-free “half and half substitute” has a whopping 61%! Case closed.

Instead, let’s open up the good stuff – and yes very healthy (follow the science to learn why we absolutely need fats): olive, coconut, palm and avocado oil. Butter, whole-fat milk, kefir and yogurt. Poultry (chicken, duck, goose), animal fats (definitely grass-fed or organic if at all possible – beef and pork, even lamb or bison).


A Riff on Julia Child’s Potatoes au Gratin

2 tablespoons butter, plus 1 more for top

1 cup minced onions (or leeks)

½ lb. raw potatoes (about 2-3 large), peeled and diced into 1/2-inch cubes, or thin-sliced rounds. (You can substitute or add root vegetables such as parsnips, carrots, rutabaga, kohlrabi, celeriac or turnips. Shred or slice thinly and lightly boil with the potatoes. Or add raw summer squash such as zucchini or yellow squash.)

3 eggs

1-1/2 cups whipping cream, half and half, cream or full-fat milk

1 teaspoon salt (preferably non-chemical unprocessed sea salt)

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

½ cup grated Swiss, cheddar, Gruyere cheese (or your favorite hard cheese or combination)

Place butter in skillet and melt over low heat. Cook onions slowly in butter for 5 minutes or so, until tender but not browned.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drop potatoes in boiling salted water and cook for 6-8 minutes, or until barely cooked. Drain.

Butter a 3-4 cup baking dish. Spread half the potatoes, then the cooked onion, and the remaining potatoes.

Beat eggs with whipping cream, add salt and pepper and stir. Pour eggs and cream over the potatoes and shake the dish to coat the vegetables.

Sprinkle in the cheese. Dot with extra butter. Bake for 30-40 minutes in upper third of oven until top is nicely browned.


Almost Everyone’s Grandmother’s Chopped Liver

(Good fat, plus the added super-healthy bonus of organ meat)

2 pounds chicken livers, trimmed of any tough membranes

1 cup rendered chicken fat

2 cups medium-diced yellow onion (2 onions)

1/3 cup Madeira or white wine (you can cook off the alcohol by heating the wine first, or skip.)

4 extra-large eggs, hard-cooked, peeled, and chopped

1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

2 teaspoons kosher salt (preferably unprocessed sea salt)

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pinch cayenne pepper

Saute the livers in 2 batches in 2 tablespoons of the chicken fat over medium-high heat, turning once, for about 5 minutes or less, until just barely pink inside. Don't overcook the livers or they will be dry. Transfer them to a large bowl.

In the same pan, saute the onions in 3 tablespoons of the chicken fat over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, or until browned. Add the wine, if using, and deglaze the pan, scraping the sides, for about 15 seconds. Pour into the bowl with the livers.

Add the eggs, parsley, thyme, salt, black pepper, cayenne, and the remaining chicken fat to the bowl. Toss quickly to combine. Transfer half the mixture to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse 6 to 8 times, until coarsely chopped. Repeat with the remaining mixture. Season to taste, and chill. Serve on crackers, matzo or your favorite toasted bread.


Allison St. Claire loves to dream about, study, grow, play with, prepare and ultimately enjoy eating great food.

Meet Allison


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