We're not afraid of a bit of fat when it makes bread (and potatoes, and corn, and many other things) taste so darn good. —INGRAIN, Summer 2018
Rendered beef fat has been used as a cooking agent for ages (Julia Child was right; those fast-food fries really were tastier back in the day) and was even the main ingredient in the first commercial margarine. Things went downhill from there. These candles may not reignite the beef fat craze, but they are awfully fun to make ahead for a party. The subtle, beefy flavors that get lost when used for cooking really shine here. Slather any leftover tallow on grilled corn or use the fat to fry up a mean batch of potatoes. You can render your own fat if you have access to steakhouse-quality fat, but this is not the time to pull out those grocery store beef scraps you’ve been hoarding in your freezer. In a form this pure, the rendered fat will taste like the weekly special. Take the easy route and buy beef tallow.
Makes 12 big fat candles
12 ounces beef tallow
Sea salt (fleur de sel, maldon)
Handful of small sage leaves
Pairing The ester-y-aromas (beer speak for the aroma-laden chemical compounds that yeast emits during the brewing process) in an earthy and complex Belgian Trappiste ale like Westmalle will complement the subtle flavors in the bread and tallow. Matilda (Goose Island), an homage to the famed Orval Brewery within the Trappist monastery Abbaye Notre-Dame d'Orval, is another good option with its ripe, funky notes and a dry, woodsy finish.
Tallow in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and season with salt.
Bottom of 12 small sage leaves, if needed, so each sprig stands about 2 inches tall. Submerge leaves in the cooled tallow for a few minutes to allow the fat to soak into the leaves. Remove the leaves.
Melted tallow into each condiment cup. Fill each cup until the fat comes about 1 inch up the sides. Transfer the cups to the fridge and cool until the fat begins to firm up but is not hard, about 1 hour.
Leafy end of one sage leaf and stand the leaf upright in a condiment cup. If the sage leaf does not stand upright, balance a teaspoon or toothpick across the top of the condiment cup to support the leaf. Gently transfer the condiment cups to the refrigerator and allow the fat to firm up completely overnight. Candles can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week (place them in a sealed container to keep candles from absorbing fridge odors).
Candles. Line a rectangular baking pan with plastic wrap. Fill a small saucepan with a few inches of water and bring to a simmer, then turn off the heat and allow to cool slightly. Working quickly, dip one condiment cup in the hot water (remove immediately) and gently lift out the candle by the sage wick. If the candle does not move, dip the condiment cup quickly in water again. Place the candle on the baking pan and repeat with the remaining candles. At this point, you can cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate the candles for several days. Trim away any bits of tallow that have melted onto the plastic wrap and peel the bottom of the candles from the plastic wrap (don’t try to lift the candles by the wicks).
Warm individual serving plates and arrange the bread on the plates. Light the sage wicks one at a time. Be patient; it may take a few times to light. Transfer one candle to each serving plate and serve with the bread.