Confit Confidential: How To Master This French Cooking Technique
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CONFIT is a traditional French cooking method used to preserve meat and vegetables using salt, sugar and fat. The key to confit is slow cooking submerged in fat at a low temperature, which results in incredibly tender and flavoursome dishes. Let's explore how you can bring this indulgent cooking style into your kitchen.

Preparing for Confit

The first step is selecting high-quality, local ingredients. For meat confit, choose pasture-raised poultry like duck or chicken. Herbs like thyme, bay leaves and garlic add layers of flavour. You'll also need a preserving fat like duck, goose or olive oil. Rendering your own fat from meat bones yields the best results. 

For vegetables, root vegetables and firm fruits work well. Choose unwaxed produce and cut into uniform sizes for even cooking. Herbs and spices should complement the natural flavours. 

Curing with salt draws out moisture before cooking and adds flavour. For 500g of meat or veg, use 1-2 tbsp fine sea salt. Toss thoroughly and refrigerate covered for 8-24 hours to cure. Rinse and pat dry before proceeding.

Slow Cooking In Fat

Once cured, arrange meat or vegetables in a heavy-based pot or oven-safe dish. Completely cover with fat, pressing out any air bubbles. Herbs and spices can be tucked in. 

Cook in a 150°C oven or stovetop at the lowest possible heat. The fat should remain liquid but not simmering. Check periodically, basting occasionally, until very tender when pierced. Cooking times vary but plan 4-8 hours. 

Cool completely submerged before refrigerating. The fat will solidify, sealing in moisture and flavour. Confit keeps refrigerated for weeks or frozen for months.

Enjoying Confit Dishes

Confit is endlessly versatile. Shred or slice meat over salads, pastas or toast for instant flavour and tenderness. Roast vegetables as a rich side. Fry pieces until crispy for topping pizzas or canapés. 

Confit also enhances braises, stews and ragouts. Sear meat and then add braising liquid and herbs. Simmer until tender and sauce is rich. Shred meat back into the pot for a fall-off-the-bone texture. 

With confit, you can transform inexpensive cuts into luxurious dishes worthy of the finest restaurants. Slow cooking in fat results in a meltingly tender, intensely flavoured finished product. Master the art of confit for truly indulgent cooking.

How To Confit Specific Ingredients

Now that you understand the basic confit method, here are tips for specific ingredients:

— Duck Confit 

Duck is ideal for confit due to its high fat content. Cure legs and thighs with salt and herbs. Completely cover with rendered duck fat and cook at 150°C for 4-6 hours until meltingly tender. 

— Chicken Confit

Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs are best. Cure with salt and herbs then pack tightly in a dish. Completely cover with olive oil or rendered chicken fat. Cook at 150°C for 3-4 hours until very tender. 

— Pork Belly Confit

This rich cut becomes fall-apart tender with confit. Cure slab with salt, sugar, thyme and garlic. Completely cover with lard or duck fat and cook at 150°C for 6-8 hours. 

— Vegetable Confit  

Firm vegetables like carrots, parsnips and fennel are suited to confit. Peel if desired, then cure, pack tightly and cover completely with olive oil. Cook at 150°C for 3-5 hours until very soft.

— Fruit Confit

Stone fruits like plums, apricots and cherries are delicious ‘confited’. Prick skins, cure briefly and pack in a dish. Cover completely with sugar syrup and cook at 150°C for 2-4 hours until soft but holding shape.

— Herb Confit

Fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme and bay leaves take on intense flavour with confit. Cure briefly, pack tightly and cover completely with olive oil. Cook at 150°C for 1-2 hours until very soft. 

Storing and Serving Confit Dishes

Now that you've spent time preparing confit, you'll want to store it properly to enjoy the rewards of your labour. Once fully cooled, transfer confit solids and fat to an airtight container. Glass jars or crocks work well. 

For meat confit, shred or slice the meat from the bones before packaging. This allows you to use portions as needed without removing all the fat each time. The fat should fully cover and surround the meat/vegetables to prevent oxidation. 

Label containers with contents and date. Refrigerate for four weeks or freeze for four months. When ready to use, thaw overnight in the refrigerator. You can also pasteurise jars for pantry storage. 

Serving Guide

When serving confit, first drain off excess fat. For meat, shred or slice and crisp in a hot pan with a little fresh fat until heated through. Vegetables can be roasted or sautéed to intensify flavours further.

Present confit simply to allow its rich flavours to shine. Serve meat confit with roasted potatoes and a green salad. Vegetables pair well with grains like rice, quinoa or couscous. Fruit confit makes an indulgent finish, especially with cheeses or ice cream. 

Herb confits add intense flavour to dishes. Try tossing shredded chicken confit with rosemary confit and pasta. Or stir bacon lardons and thyme confit into white beans. 

Master this simple low-and-slow cooking technique to add complexity to everyday dishes like weeknight stews or curries. Impress guests by incorporating confit into appetisers, mains or sides for dinner parties. Plus, your preserved creations will keep for months, allowing you to enjoy the fruits of your labour throughout the year. Confit takes minimal effort but maximises taste —  so get cooking!