Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Confit Garlic

Garlic is one of the things that makes my life complete. I eat it practically daily in one form or another, crushed raw into salads and small plate type things, cooked gently into the base of braises and stews, tossed with abandon into roasting trays with meat and all kinds of vegetables, beaten to a paste with salt to stir into fresh mayonnaise, slivers crisped to golden for an unexpected crunch in salads, flipped through noodles and stir fries, mashed into butter and cream cheese for garlic bread. You get the idea - the list goes on....

It is used in most cuisines around the world with the exception of subgroups like Jains who don't do garlic or onion, carrot or potato either - which would leave me thoroughly discombobulated. It is surprisingly complex in flavour depending on the cooking methods, just adding to its brilliant versatility.

I thought I'd tried pretty much every permutation until I came across the idea of garlic confit. Mostly I tend to associate confit with duck and leave it at that but it is a much broader and well loved method of preserving that can also be used with fruit and vegetables and, though I've not tried this at home, is apparently just a fabulous way to cook any kind of animal tongue, larks included presumably.

french duck
Confit duck warmed in the oven to serve
This makes sense because to confit you submerge the ingredient in oil - or sugar syrup for fruits - and slow cook it making for a very tender result with no appreciable loss of moisture or flavour. It is a really seductive way to prep your duck legs for the winter as the longer they sit untouched on the pantry shelf the more tender the flesh becomes till it really does just melt in your mouth.

The same is true of garlic, I'm pleased to say. I bought a LOT of garlic and cooked it down and have spent the last few weeks adding garlic oil to everything, mashing confit cloves into salad dressings and, undoubtedly my absolute favourite, toasting ciabatta and topping it with confit and salt crystals for the most decadently fabulous garlic bread ever invented. Melt a little cheese on top for variation. Try it - you'll thank me!

Confit Garlic

3 or 4 juicy heads of garlic
Olive oil to cover

Break the garlic into individual cloves, peel them and drop them into a small saucepan. This looks like a pretty daunting task before you start but is remarkably quick once you begin.

A bit of a mess!
Pour over just enough olive oil to cover the cloves and put the pan over a low heat. Bring to a simmer, turn the heat as low as it will go, and cook for 45 minutes.

Take the pan off the heat and, using a slotted spoon transfer the softened garlic cloves to a clean jar then pour over the oil. When the contents are cool, seal the jar and keep it in the fridge.

Use it with everything from a sauce for steamed vegetables to a base layer for pizza and slathered onto warm naan bread as a snack - it's definitely all good.