November 17, 2016

The Unique Heat of Confit

Duck legs confit with potato gratin and mushroom sauce .

Students earning a culinary certificate online learn a wide variety of cooking techniques, from baking to sous vide. One approach that stands out is confit, a method of preserving meat through slow cooking with its roots in France. Serious Eats explained that, similar to deep frying, it involves immersing a piece of meat in oil, but at considerably cooler temperatures.

Often employed for preparing waterfowl, like ducks or geese, confit can be applied to many other kinds of meal. Whether used for poultry, pork or something more unusual, the technique achieves exceptionally tender, moist and flavorful results. Every chef should add confit to his or her cooking arsenal by trying a few recipes:

Bringing extra flavor to the bird
Confit is most closely associated with duck, and with good reason. The fatty, tasty bird makes an excellent basis for putting the technique to work. It’s important to plan ahead since you’ll want to salt the poultry in advance of cooking and allow it plenty of time to absorb the flavor.

“Allow time for the meat to absorb seasoning.”

The directions from Epicurious suggested using a mixture of salt, smashed garlic, shallots, thyme and pepper. After seasoning the pieces of duck, cover and refrigerate for a day or two. When you’re ready to cook, heat the oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit while melting duck fat in a saucepan.

Brush the seasoning from the duck pieces before setting them in a pot. Pour the fat over the top and set the pot in the oven for about three hours. Look for the meat to become tender and easily removed from the bones. Then allow it cool, keeping the meat in the fat and refrigerating.

If you prefer to stick to chicken, Emeril Lagasse offered a recipe that calls for four legs with attached thighs. Cook the poultry in a mixture of fat, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, peppercorns and salt. When covered in strained fat and refrigerated, the chicken will keep for up to a month.

Experimenting with pork belly
For something a little different, confit can also be a delicious way of preparing pork belly. Leite’s Culinaria provided a flavor-packed recipe from chef Thomas Keller of The French Laundry. It starts with immersing the a slab of pork belly in brine, which requires planning ahead.

Mix honey, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, parsley, garlic, kosher salt and peppercorns in a pot and heat to a boil. Allow the brine to cool, and then cover and refrigerate for at least eight hours. Then, place the pork in the brine and return to the refrigerator for another 10 hours. Rinse the pork while heating the oven to 200 degrees.

Set the pork in a pot, covering it with lard. Heat the meat to 190 degrees before placing in the oven. After about five to six hours, it will grow tender. For the most appetizing look and texture, press out some fat when immersing the pork in fat. Keep in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours, or up to a week, before heating and serving.

Confit takes time, but the exceptional taste and texture are worth it. Anyone attending culinary academy should explore the flavorful possibilities of this cooking method.