Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Garlic Confit and What to do With It

Hi, it's me. Back again. I hope y'all are, like me, being swept up in holiday planning and fun and haven't really noticed that I haven't posted in nearly two weeks (eek!).

As penance for my lag in posting, I thought I would give you not one recipe, but two! The first recipe isn't really a recipe, more a technique, but anyhoo ...

Garlic Confit is a really nice treat to have on hand. Technically a confit is some sort of animal protein (like chicken, duck or turkey) slowly cooked in its own fat until tender. In recent years, the term confit has been extended to cover vegetables slowly cooked in oil (usually olive oil) until tender and silky. So, this method is for garlic confit but you can apply the same principles to onions, shallots, tomatoes, peppers, etc.

Garlic Confit
  • Garlic cloves, peeled (as many as you want - I cooked up about three cups)
  • Sprigs of fresh herbs or a few dried chilies, optional
  • Olive oil, to cover
Put the garlic into a heavy saucepan with herbs and chilies, if using. Pour enough olive oil over to just cover. Place the saucepan over low heat and let garlic cook until soft. The oil will sputter a little as the moisture in the garlic cooks off. Depending on the heat and the age of the garlic, the confit will be done in 30 minutes to an hour. The cloves will be a light golden brown and tended enough to provide no resistance when you try to stick a toothpick through one.

Let the confit cool and then transfer to clean glass jars. The confit should be stored covered with oil and stored in the refrigerator - any extra oil should be strained and stored in the refrigerator. Use your confit and garlic oil within a week. (See the comments below for why.)

Now you have a jar full of garlic confit in your fridge, so what do you do with it? You can spread the cloves on grilled or toasted bread, use them in a roast beef sandwich, bake them into foccacia or add them to pasta. I used some of my confit to make this soothing, warming bean stew:

Cannellini Bean Stew with Garlic Confit
Serves 4 to 6
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1.5 cups dried cannellini beans, cooked or 3 cans cannellini beans, drained with some liquid reserved
  • 6 canned tomatoes, chopped
  • 1-2 cups chicken broth, canned is fine
  • 1/2 cup garlic confit
  • minced rosemary, optional
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1-2 pieces of pancetta or bacon, chopped fine
  • handful grated parmesan
Over medium heat, saute the onion in a little olive oil until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the cooked beans, tomatoes, confit and a little chicken broth (you want the mixture to be a little soupy). Simmer until the tomatoes break down, adding more chicken broth or canned bean liquid to keep the mixture from drying out. The goal is a thick stew-like mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper and add some minced rosemary, if using.

While the stew is cooking, make the crispy breadcrumb topping: Saute the bacon or pancetta until crispy. Toast the breadcrumbs with a little olive oil until golden brown (do this in a skillet or on a baking sheet in your oven). Toss the breadcrumbs, bacon and cheese together.

When the bean stew looks and tastes right to you (the tomatoes should have broken down and are part of the sauce binding the beans and confit together - think Italianate baked beans). Served, topped with a handful of the breadcrumb mixture.

This is a really soul-satisfying dish. The beans are super-creamy and each smooth bite is punctuated with hits of garlic and crunchy bites of breadcrumb. It's super-easy to make this dish vegetarian by leaving out the bacon.


Julia said...

This probably goes without saying, but the confit needs to be stored in the fridge too. Garlic in olive oil is a botulism risk if it isn't refridgerated.

Sunday Cook said...

Sorry - should have made that clear in the post. I will revise it to clarify.

However, storing homemade garlic + oil products in the fridge is no hedge against botulism. Botulism grows in an anaerobic environment and the fridge won't stop that from happening. If you are concerned about botulism in your home-made garlic products, you should use whatever you make within one week.

** For those who are curious about this botulism stuff: Botulism spores can be present in soil and can then hitch a ride on heads of garlic. This is normally not an issue for us, but ... if you happen to take some botulism-spore anointed garlic and you drop that garlic into oil, you create an anaerobic environment (no oxygen present) which is perfect for botulism production. You won't smell or taste anything amiss, so you can put yourself in danger if you keep your homemade garlic products hanging around too long.

Not every head of garlic is tainted by botulism, so if you've always stored your homemade oil for weeks and weeks, lucky you. :-)

Julia said...

I thought adding acid made it safe - but then mine never lasts very long...

Sunday Cook said...

I think acid can make it safe - if you look at the labels of commercially produced garlic oil, you usually will see an acidifying agent. I've never worked out what the proportions should be, but that's because, like you, my stuff never sits around long enough for me to worry.

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