Garlic Confit (Ail Confit)

January 22, 2012

Without garlic I simply would not care to live.
~Louis Diat, former chef de cuisine at the Ritz-Carlton and creator of vichyssoise

Confit refers to a meat or vegetable cooked slowly in fat and then preserved in that fat or even a fruit cooked and preserved in sugars and/or salt. The garlic version is sinfully simple.

Slather these tender, magical morsels on crusty artisanal bread, or accent soups, sauces, pastas, pizzas, vinaigrettes, mayonnaises, marinades, mashed potatoes, etc. Even purée or smash and spread on fish, beef, pork, lamb or slip them under poultry skin before roasting or grilling. The garlic infused oil is equally versatile with preps and finishes.

GARLIC CONFIT (AIL CONFIT)

2 C plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled
4 thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
2 C extra virgin olive oil

Put garlic and herbs in medium, heavy sauce pan and cover with olive oil. The oil should just cover the cloves, and the amount may vary depending on clove and pan sizes. Bring to a bare, gentle simmer over low heat and cook until the garlic is tender and pale golden, but not browned, about 40 minutes. Allow the garlic to cool to room temperature while in the pan with the olive oil.

Then, using a slotted spoon, carefully transfer garlic and herbs to a canning jar(s). Pour the olive oil over the top, seal tightly and refrigerate for a week or so.

A garlic caress is stimulating. A garlic excess soporific.
~Curnonsky (nom de plume of Maurice Edmond Sailland)

Again, fresh trumps processed.

A study conducted at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine suggests that the cardioprotective effects of freshly crushed fresh garlic bulbs exceed those of the mal-scented, stale flavored processed ones found in jars. The findings were published last month in The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Cardiovascular researchers prepared two different sets of garlic slurries—one with freshly crushed garlic and the other with garlic that had been crushed but left to dry for two days, allowing hydrogen sulfide and other volatile chemicals to dissipate. Two groups of laboratory rats were gavaged with the respective slurries for 30 days, after which their hearts were subjected to a period of induced ischemia followed by reperfusion.

The test results revealed that although both garlic slurries afforded some cardioprotective benefits, the hearts of rats that had eaten the freshly crushed garlic had less cardiac damage, enhanced signaling and a more robust recovery rate, presumably due to the continued presence of hydrogen sulfide.

Moral to the story: for the sake of both health and palate, jettison those lab jars of rank processed garlic and re-stock your pantry with a double dose of fresh heads.

Here is a Chicken Fricassée Provençal recipe rife with fresh garlic which sweetens with the cooking process.

CHICKEN FRICASSEE PROVENCAL WITH GARLIC

1 local farm chicken, cut into 8 pieces or 4 leg thigh quarters, at room temperature
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 t Herbes de Provence

2 T unsalted butter
3 T extra virgin olive oil
2 fresh thyme sprigs

20 plump fresh garlic cloves, peeled and halved

Garlic & Milk Confit*
1 1/2 C fairly dry white wine
1-2 T apple cider vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
2 t dried thyme

Fresh thyme, stemmed and chopped

Liberally season the chicken on all sides with salt and pepper. Season the skin side with Herbes de Provence.

In a large heavy skillet, heat the olive oil and butter over medium high until hot, but not smoking. Add the chicken pieces, skin side down and brown until the fowl turns golden, about 5 minutes per side. Take care to regulate the heat to avoid scorching. Transfer to a platter and loosely tent. Season again with salt and pepper.

Reduce the heat to medium low, add the halved garlic cloves, and return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the skillet. Cover and cook over low to medium low heat, turning the chicken a few times, until the chicken is juicy yet cooked through, about 20 minutes. Transfer the chicken and garlic halves to a platter or baking dish and loosely tent.

Discard some of the juices in the skillet, retaining about 3 tablespoons. Return the pan to the stove over high heat and add the puréed garlic confit. Once hot, pour the white wine over the garlic and deglaze, scraping up any bits in the bottom of the pan. Add the cider vinegar and season with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and dried thyme, reducing the heat to medium high. Cook, uncovered, until the wine and garlic coalesce to form a smooth, savory purée. Serve the chicken and spoon the purée and garlic halves over the chicken pieces and sprinkle with fresh thyme.

*Garlic & Milk Confit

4 plump heads fresh garlic, cloves separated and peeled
1 quart whole milk

Place the garlic in a heavy medium saucepan, and cover with 2 cups of the milk. Bring to just a simmer over medium heat. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve over a large bowl. Discard the milk and retain the cloves. Return the garlic to the pan, pour over another 2 cups milk, and simmer, uncovered, until the garlic softens, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let the cloves cool in the milk. Again, drain the garlic through the sieve and discard the milk. (For the fricassée recipe above, purée the garlic.) Otherwise, the garlics can be transfered to a container with a tight lid and kept in the refrigerator for at least 5 days.