caul fat: n. The web-like membrane of fatty material that encases the internal organs of certain animals, like pigs, sheep, and cows.
That's all well and good, you say. But what on Earth do you do with this stuff? Well, we have the answer. And just so you know, you've probably eaten this in restaurants and never known...
The other night we met Brad Steelman, the chef at the River Cafe in Brooklyn, at an event for Electrolux (Steelman was showing off their luxe induction cooking stovetop and other appliances). The chef was making lamb, and before he put the loins in the oven, he pulled out a wad of caul fat (from a pig), spread it out like a picnic blanket, and wrapped each lamb loin snugly in it.
As Steelman explained, caul fat renders right away during cooking. It's a chef secret; wrap your meat (or fish) in a little caul fat, and you get flavor, moisture, and fat that literally melts into the meat as it cooks. Like bacon draped on top of a turkey roast, only it disappears into the meat—great for keeping a lean piece of meat juicy and basted, so to speak, while it cooks.
It really does look like a spider web, or maybe one of those mesh plastic sleeves the wine store sometimes slips on a bottle. And when we asked where, exactly, we're supposed to buy caul fat (we don't recall seeing it in the meat aisle of Whole Foods), Steelman said a lot of specialty grocery stores or butchers have it. Just ask. Also, it freezes beautifully and will keep for a while once it's frozen.
We found this article about chef Vuong Loc of Portage restaurant in Seattle, and it offers a few more photos and some suggestions.
• Caul Fat Tutorial, at Star Chefs
Has anyone cooked with caul fat at home?
Related: Word of Mouth: Rillettes
(Image: Star Chefs)