Confits

Confits

By
Justin North
Contains
6 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781740665377
Photographer
Steve Brown

The French word ‘confit’ means preserved, and is perhaps best known as a specialty of south-western France. Originally this ancient method was used to cook and, more specifically, to preserve meats such as pork, goose or duck in their own rendered fat.

Confit meats were stored in earthenware jars or pots to be eaten during the long winter months when fresh meat was less readily available. Its appeal is in the exquisite, melting texture – far closer to fresh meat than other preserving techniques, such as pickling, drying or smoking.

In contemporary cooking the definition of a confit has broadened, and it no longer specifically refers to preserved foods. Instead all kinds of foodstuffs – even seafood and vegetables – may be slow-cooked in rendered fat or even certain oils, to a divine tenderness.

Confit dishes are fairly straightforward to prepare, although the specifics will vary depending on the nature of the ingredient. Dense cuts of meat such as pork belly, neck or shoulder of veal and lamb, poultry legs and wings are first rubbed in an aromatic salt and left to cure overnight. The pieces of meat are then completely submerged in liquid fat and baked in the oven, long and slow, until soft as butter. Once cooked, the meat is covered in liquid fat which sets around it in a white blanket.

Less robust ingredients, such as fish, seafood or vegetables, need only to be salted for a few hours, ideally in a light citrus-flavoured salt. They are better suited to cooking in a neutral-flavoured fat or oil that doesn’t overpower their more delicate flavour.

Good-quality rendered goose and duck fat can be bought from specialty food stores and even from some butcher’s shops. You can also render your own confit fat at home simply by purchasing pieces of raw duck, goose or chicken fat from the butcher and cooking it for a few hours over a very low heat with a little water and a few aromatics. Once rendered, sieve and store it in a sterilised container in the refrigerator.

Recipes in this Chapter

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