The art of confit: Preservation technique adds flavor, delight to local menus
Duck confit. Rabbit confit. Chicken wing confit. What does it all mean?
Confit — pronounced con-FEE — is a cooking technique of baking salted and seasoned meat in fat, low and slow, around 200 degrees, allowing the fat to create a seal free from bacteria. Traditionally used for preservation, this old-school cooking method has turned into a trendy cooking technique that’s expanding beyond meat to include vegetables.
Here are a few local restaurants’ takes on the art of confit.
Hitting the menu in November is what Trevett Hooper thinks is the most perfect dish at Oakland’s Legume: confit duck legs served with a sauce made from sour-cherry jam (canned in the restaurant in June), Carolina gold rice and wilted greens, such as turnip greens or escarole.
Traditionally, he says, meat and poultry had seasonality, just like fruits and vegetables. Then, confit provided a means to preserve them throughout the winter.
Fast-forward to today, it’s a cooking technique used to add flavor and delight customer’s palates.
“People love salty, rich meat. What’s not to love about it?” Hooper says.
It’s a technique favored by kitchen staff because it’s simple to execute and stores meat and poultry very well.
The longer the meat sits in the fat, the better it gets. And though there might be a misconception that cooking in fat adds more fat to this dish, that’s not the case.
Just like with any cooking preparation, such as braising or frying, the fat is rendered, with little ending up on the final dish.
At the Crested Duck Charcuterie in Beechview, Kevin Costa combines confit with sous-vide, another cooking technique, in which food is sealed in an airtight plastic bag and cooked in a water bath for a long period of time. With a traditional confit method, he says, a lot of fat is needed to submerge the meat, but by using sous-vide, you just need a couple of tablespoons to enhance the flavor. For a restaurant that’s only open three nights a week for service, he finds this method more economical.
For the self-taught butcher, preparing confit chicken thighs and duck legs not only allows Costa to lengthen the shelf life of ingredients, it helps him control the cooking process. The confit meat can last refrigerated up to a month if the fat seal isn’t broken. Once it is, Costa says you have seven to 10 days to use it. Chicken thighs, for example, are hard to cook to order, he says. So, by cooking them ahead of time, all he has to do is heat them up and finish them off by crisping the skin right before plating.
In addition to meat, Costa is preparing confit vegetables, typically in olive oil. Leeks currently appear on his menu with the braised Jamison Farm lamb neck dish with roasted turnips, wilted mustard greens and gravy.
Like Costa, Jason Schaffer at Braddock’s American Brasserie, Downtown, is combining the confit and sous-vide methods of cooking to create one of Braddock’s outstanding dishes: confit rabbit with housemade pappardelle, roasted beets, grilled yams, spinach, oyster mushrooms, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and rabbit demi glace.
He says confit is the perfect cooking technique for rabbit, because it naturally has little fat. For this dish, whole rabbits are salted and cured for three days in a brine before being cooked in duck fat.
Shaffer uses duck fat not only for the flavor, but to add moisture into the meat. “Confit keeps the flavor of the meat but also allows you to add your own flavors and essence to it,” he says.
The confit technique is also used in Braddock’s bourbon candied pork chop dish, which features a bacon and sweet red onion confit made from slow-cooked bacon, salty pork and sweet red onions.
When customers started requesting that a potato dish be added to East Liberty’s Union Pig & Chicken’s menu, owner Jessicarobyn Keyser had a conundrum. She had only a single deep fryer on site, and it already was heavily used to make the eatery’s delicious fried chicken. So, Keyser and her then-chef came up with the idea to make confit potatoes, using the rendered meat drippings and fat that were by-products from several hundred pans of the in-house smoked barbecue.
“The fat from our smoked meats give a richer and more distinctive flavor than potatoes confited in olive oil or butter,” Keyser says. “It’s on a different level entirely.”
Fingerling potatoes are tossed in a deep pan with fresh rosemary and thyme, carrots, celery, onions and garlic, then covered with pork and brisket fats and cooked low and slow until the potatoes are silky and tender. When ready for service as poutine, they are topped with brisket gravy — also made from those barbecue-meat renderings and similar to the mind-blowing gravy formerly served at Station Street Hot Dogs — and creamy cheese curds.
Opened in mid-October, Estiatorio Poros, Downtown, has brought the exotic tastes of the Mediterranean to Market Square. One such dish is the fig and duck confit baklava mezze, a small plate meant to be shared over cocktails and conversation. “We wanted to do something untraditional with baklava,” says executive chef Chris O’Brien.
Confit duck leg is one of O’Brien’s personal favorite dishes. You can do so much with duck confit, he says, such as crisping the skin, warming it up and adding it to salads, or rolling it into pastry and baking it, like he’s doing at Poros.
Duck legs are cured overnight, then cooked in a bath of their own fat, producing a flavorful and rich product. The duck is then cooled and presented in a deconstructed manner with walnuts, mission figs and a burnt honey gastrique, producing a savory take on this traditional sweet pastry.
As you can tell, duck fat is a popular cooking fat for confit. Even chicken wings, a basic bar food of choice for some, gets an elevated flavor when cooked in duck fat at Grit & Grace, Downtown. Executive chef Brian Pekarcik prefers to use duck fat because it adds better flavor than other fats. Right before service, the wings are deep-fried to provide a crisp skin and are served with a yellow curry sauce and an herbed yogurt, and topped with thinly sliced pickled Fresno chiles. You can find these confit wings on the late-night happy hour �menu, served from 9 to 11 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
Read more: http://triblive.com/lifestyles/fooddrink/9254030-74/confit-duck-fat#ixzz3rJTMthLZ
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