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eG Cook-Off #64: Confit

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#1 David Ross

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Posted 20 November 2013 - 05:50 PM

Fall is but a whisper of the recent past--at least it is where I live in the upper reaches of Eastern, Washington. We had our first fluff of snow a week ago and a reasonable November storm is predicted for this weekend with temperatures holding at a chilly 18 degrees at night.

 

Along with the rumblings of cold winter weather and Holiday feasts, we turn our culinary musings to time-treasured, comfortable dishes.  And so I invite you to join me in another kitchen adventure--the inimitable eG Cook-Off Series. In 2013, we've tackled the tricky cooking of Squid, Calamari and Octopus and we made delicious dishes out of the humble Summer Squash.

(Click here http://forums.egulle...cook-off-index/ for the complete eG Cook-Off Index).

 

But today we're shunning all manner of counting calories, salt or fat content--for what is rich in flavor is good for the soul my dear friends. Please join me in crafting, nuturing and savoring a dish of Confit.


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#2 gfweb

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Posted 20 November 2013 - 06:01 PM

David, do you care to define confit for the purposes of the challenge?


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#3 David Ross

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Posted 20 November 2013 - 06:21 PM

Thank you for the question.  The "Larousse Gastronomique," (a respected encyclopedia of French Gastronomy), defines "Confit" as "A piece of pork, goose, duck or turkey, cooked in its own fat and stored in a pot, covered in the same fat to preserve it." Confit is traditionally used in "Cassoulet: A dish, originally from Languedoc, which consists of navy beans cooked in a stew pot with pork rinds and seasonings. A garnish of meats, (confit being one), and a gratin topping are added in the final stages."

 

I have a love/hate relationship with Confit, owing, I suppose, to being an entrenched Traditionalist when it comes to food--relying on history as a guide to how a dish is intended to be prepared and presented to the customer. Yet at the same time, there is a chi-chi little devil sitting on my shoulder whispering in my ear to accept the current loose-lipped trendiness that occurs when one reads menu descriptions ca. 2013. To fool with tradition as it were. Case in point, Confit.

 

Some menus stretch the limits of the true definition of "confit" far beyond what any food purist would deem acceptable or even reasonable. Silly and laughable in some cases. I can think of few dishes less appetizing than a dessert I once saw on a popular Northwest Bistro menu-"Buttermilk Shortbread garnished with Oregon Strawberry Confit." God help us. Did the Chef have no point of reference for this French Classic? Even worse, did the Chef actually know the true meaning of "Confit" and intentionally desecrate this hallowed dish? Is there no greater sin than to stew precious, June-ripened Oregon Hood strawberries in a simmering cauldron of duck fat? 

 

I doubt this crime in the kitchen actually occurred, (I didn't order the abomination). The berries may have been prepared using a "confit-style" cooking technique. Were the strawberries steeped in strawberry tea then condensed into a "gelee" to mimic the fat of a confit? Perhaps. Perhaps not. We were being tempted, "fooled" by naming a dish something that it wasn't. Parse the words as you may, but this was not a true "confit."

 

Yet I am not one to inhibit the mastery and creativity of what we uncover during our Cook-Off journeys. I only offer one man's
interpretation of Confit and place no boundaries upon your dish. Let's put forth some memorable Confit.


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#4 Steve Irby

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Posted 20 November 2013 - 06:54 PM

What a timely challenge.  I ordered four ducks from Maple Leaf a few days ago with the intent to confit the legs and thighs while serving the breast for thanksgiving.  Now the quandary is to see what great dishes are put forth ( and try to duplicate) or forge ahead with my limited skill set.  I assume the cook-off is for proteins cooked in oil. I have some pork off-cuts that will be perfect to experiment with.



#5 David Ross

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Posted 20 November 2013 - 07:09 PM

Two weeks ago I went to a private dinner where one of the courses was a "Foie-Gras Lollipop" stuffed with duck confit.  The concept had potential, but it just fell short in terms of execution.  The center of the lollipop was duck confit, encased with foie gras then rolled in a mixture of pistachios with a stick to mock a lollipop.  The confit was minced almost to a paste, which I think destroys the flavor of confit.  I like big threads of salty meat when I'm eating confit. It was served at room temperature, which I felt didn't bring forth the flavor of either the confit or the foie gras.  I like foie gras in the extreme-either hot or very cold, but not room temperature. I've wrestled with how I might have combined the same elements and I haven't come up with anything that I think would work, but I do think it has possibilities. 


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#6 Goatjunky

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Posted 20 November 2013 - 08:34 PM

Im excited. Never eaten it before, let alone tried to make it

#7 jmacnaughtan

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Posted 21 November 2013 - 01:40 AM

I don't see why you're so worked up about fruit confit.  "Confit" just means preserved; les fruits confits have existed in France since the arrival of cane sugar.  It just means candied.  I recently made Philippe Conticini's confit de citron, a sort of hyper-concentrated lemon marmalade for use with desserts- just lemon peel simmered with lemon juice and sugar, reduced and blitzed.  It's delicious.

 

On the savory side, I recommend lamb shoulder.  Salt it, rub it with garlic and leave it overnight.  Lay a layer of garlic and rosemary in an oven-proof pot, add the lamb, cover and fill any spaces with more rosemary and garlic (I used around 8 heads plus a big handful of rosemary).  Bake for 8-10 hours at 120°C.  Serve with some kind of fried potatoes and condiment.

 

You know it's done when you can press your finger into the meat and the bone just slides out.



#8 David Ross

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Posted 21 November 2013 - 05:20 AM

I'd love to see your "les fruits confits."  I can be easily swayed if something is delicious.



#9 David Ross

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Posted 21 November 2013 - 12:11 PM

I've been doing some research this morning and thinking about my first dish and I acknowledge that there are any number of acceptable dishes called "confit" but the definition is not taken quite so definitively as Larousse.  

 

For example, Eric Ripert makes a Lemon Confit as an accompaniment to many dishes.  I then realized that a dish I've done for years, "Confit with Preserved Lemons and Arugula," is really two types of Confit-preserved duck and preserved lemons.  The lemons are salted, (as is the duck), then preserved in lemon juice, (the duck in it's own fat), and sometimes I add olive oil to the lemons. 

 

I typically buy duck hindquarters at the local Asian market where they used to sell for the ridiculously low price of $1.50 per pound.

Sadly, they are no longer offered fresh, (or frozen), so I'm using chicken hindquarters in my first dish, the aforementioned "Confit with Preserved Lemons and Arugula."   It's basically a salad with the chicken confit heated under the broiler to crisp the skin.  The preserved lemons add some acid to cut through the rich meat, and I think the salt in the lemons accents, (but doesn't overpower), the salt in the meat.  

 

 


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#10 slkinsey

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Posted 21 November 2013 - 12:45 PM

I will be making sous vide confit turkey legs (I typically buy several extra legs) for Thanksgiving this year.  Nothing to it, really.  I usually cure poultry legs with pink salt, kosher salt, herbs and spices, then rinse them off, bag then individually with a half tablespoon of fat and perhaps some flavorings, cook them for several hours at 80C, chill them in an ice bath and then either use with a day or two or chuck the bags into the deep freezer for long-term storage.


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#11 rotuts

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Posted 21 November 2013 - 01:18 PM

""  cure poultry legs with pink salt  ""

 

with the Advent of SV and Freezer, why use pink salt?  

 

I always SV the legs and the thighs when I bone out a whole turkey, and i SV the breast.

 

much for later use.  dark meat being SV'd at a higher temp.

 

I do have a FZ duck and will so do the same for the first time:  Breast SV rare, legs w fat as the Turkey .

 

Ive read the various thread re Confit vs SV but have not come to a personal conclusion re one over the other.

 

but Pink Salt is fine for some things, but if you can do without, Id do without.



#12 davidkeay

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Posted 21 November 2013 - 03:16 PM

This is perfect timing. I am about to finish eating my last batch, and my (until recently vegetarian) girlfriend was pushing for us to make another!
 

It'll be top of my list once we're through Thanksgiving. I'll probably go with a pretty standard duck leg situation, but I can't wait to see what else people post.



#13 sigma

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Posted 21 November 2013 - 03:35 PM

""  cure poultry legs with pink salt  ""

 

with the Advent of SV and Freezer, why use pink salt?  

 

I always SV the legs and the thighs when I bone out a whole turkey, and i SV the breast.

 

much for later use.  dark meat being SV'd at a higher temp.

 

I do have a FZ duck and will so do the same for the first time:  Breast SV rare, legs w fat as the Turkey .

 

Ive read the various thread re Confit vs SV but have not come to a personal conclusion re one over the other.

 

but Pink Salt is fine for some things, but if you can do without, Id do without.

Pink salt is hip these days.  Not sure why.  Confit doesn't need it, shouldn't have it.  In the home of confit they would laugh at it, but a lot of shiny books on our shelves like pink salt.  


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#14 Jon Savage

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Posted 21 November 2013 - 06:59 PM

re: Pink salt & confit-

Most of the information I have Larousse Gastronomique included talk about salting the future confit for a time that varies from overnight to a day or two then slowly poaching (a low braise really). in fat- preferably the fat of the beastie in question & putting the resulting product up in jars well covered by same fat and aging to improve flavor. I tend to think of Confit as low & slow using fat as the medium rather than heat & smoke.

 

It is said that a duck or goose yields enough fat to confit its meat. Alas I find both here in North America anyway too lean so a 3:2 ratio of bird to eventual confit with the odd bird out otherwise (except for its fat of course) otherwise utilized.

 

As for the pink salt- I don't see a benefit nor do I feel there's a food safety issue without it. The resulting product would keep some of its color but confit tends to be rather brown for the most part & that seems fine to me. I could however foresee a scenario where I'd try it both ways & take both photographs & taste done with & without pink salt using turkey thighs or chicken (Duck & Goose are expensive here).

 

All of that being said- I love confit. I'll play along after Thanksgiving for sure. 

 

I'm saddened Dave Hatfield can no longer play along. He'd have enjoyed this cook-off I'm certain.


Edited by Jon Savage, 21 November 2013 - 07:02 PM.

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#15 David Ross

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Posted 21 November 2013 - 07:02 PM

I only use Kosher salt and always have good results. I would probably avoid insta-cure salt, although I've never tried it for confit--only for curing meats like corned beef and pastrami.  Insta-cure has an entirely different, (and strong) flavor than Kosher salt.  It would also turn the meat red, but that probably is just a matter of appearance.



#16 DiggingDogFarm

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Posted 21 November 2013 - 07:45 PM

A little saltpeter is or was traditional in some confits, so a touch of pink salt shouldn't be considered totally nontraditional.

A small amount will improve finished color without affecting the flavor much if at all.


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#17 catdaddy

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Posted 22 November 2013 - 07:24 AM

I am wondering where people will be getting the fat(s) necessary for successful confit?



#18 slkinsey

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Posted 22 November 2013 - 07:41 AM

I am wondering where people will be getting the fat(s) necessary for successful confit?

 

One of the great advantages of making confit using sous vide techniques is that you don't need to use very much fat.  If you put a half-tablespoon of fat into the bag, once you evacuate the air and seal the bag the meat is surrounded with a thin layer of fat.  And here's the thing:  The poultry leg doesn't know whether it's surrounded by an inch-thick layer of fat or a millimeter-thick layer of fat.  The reality is that you don't need to use any fat at all if you're either using sous vide techniques or plan on consuming the confit soon after preparing it.  I have made a huge batch of duck leg confit simply by chucking a pile of untrimmed duck legs into a Crock-Pot and letting them cook in the fat that renders out of them.  The reason it doesn't make much difference in either of these cases is because it won't really impact the flavor of the meat unless you elect to age it traditionally (i.e., surrounded in fat but otherwise unsealed).  This allows for a certain amount of "controlled rancidity" that gives traditionally aged confit a special flavor that sous vide confit or confit consumed soon after it is prepared just won't ever have.

 

 

""  cure poultry legs with pink salt  ""

 

with the Advent of SV and Freezer, why use pink salt? 

 

I like the color, that's all.  I think it may make some small difference in the texture/flavor of the finished product, but honestly that's probably confirmation bias.


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#19 jmolinari

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Posted 22 November 2013 - 07:47 AM

flavor will be affected greatly by pink salt. It's not necessarily only for safety.



#20 David Ross

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Posted 22 November 2013 - 07:57 AM

I am wondering where people will be getting the fat(s) necessary for successful confit?

D'Artagnan is a good online source for duck fat.  I use good old-fashioned pork lard. It's always available at the local supermarket and far cheaper than duck or goose fat.  I've done taste comparisons between duck confit preserved in duck fat and duck confit preserved in lard and honestly, I personally don't think there is much difference in flavor. 


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#21 blue_dolphin

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Posted 22 November 2013 - 08:11 AM

Maybe this thread will get me to try the recipe for Really Easy Duck Confit from the NYT a few years back.

Like the sous vide method, I liked the idea that it doesn't require extra fat but it should yield some that I can use for roasting potatoes or other things.


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#22 DiggingDogFarm

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Posted 22 November 2013 - 09:02 AM

Hudson Valley Foie Gras is a good source for duck fat and legs.


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#23 boudin noir

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Posted 22 November 2013 - 12:23 PM

Is there any reason not to use other fats such as olive oil?

#24 slkinsey

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Posted 22 November 2013 - 01:43 PM

It depends on whether or not you want to store it, and how.  If you want to store it, you will want a fat that is solid at storage temperatures.  Olive oil is not.


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#25 Plantes Vertes

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Posted 22 November 2013 - 02:05 PM

It depends on whether or not you want to store it, and how.  If you want to store it, you will want a fat that is solid at storage temperatures.  Olive oil is not.

 

Could you explain why solidity is important? I'm not sure I understand that.



#26 David Ross

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Posted 22 November 2013 - 03:11 PM

Confit was crafted light years before there was modern refrigeration that would keep foods fresh and safe from bacteria and so other means of preserving foods were necessary.  Salt being one of the basic methods.  The history behind having the meat suspended in congealed fat was to act as both a preserving agent but more importantly to act as a barrier to ward off bacteria. 


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#27 Plantes Vertes

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Posted 22 November 2013 - 03:38 PM

Yes, I understand that but not why the fat has to be solid - you can preserve things in oil too, no?



#28 David Ross

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Posted 22 November 2013 - 04:25 PM

I'm far from having a background in food science, but from what I've learned, hardened fat is more impenetrable to bacteria and a liquid form of oil could still welcome bacteria.


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#29 DiggingDogFarm

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Posted 22 November 2013 - 04:42 PM

In the context of true confit and lengthy preservation, saturated fat (solid at room  temperature) is stable and resistant to rancidity which makes it better for preservation.

HIstorically, saltpeter also played a roll in inhibiting rancidity.


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~Martin
 
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#30 Plantes Vertes

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Posted 22 November 2013 - 04:49 PM

Thanks both for the explanation - I didn't realise this about fats.


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