Saturday, March 1, 2014
A confit on a French menu may be poultry, pork or meat;
or fruits and vegetables.
Poultry and meat confits.
Poultry, pork and meat confits are dishes that would never have been created today; today everyone has a refrigerator with a freezer. The original confits were made to store meats for the winter months; however, the aging and cooking technique produces such wonderful flavors that confits remain very popular.
Duck’s Leg Confit and Slowly Cooked Duck Breast with Cabbage.
Photograph courtesy of avlxyz
Confits were, and are still, made by slowly cooking the poultry, pork or meat on a low heat in its own fat and juices. The slow, low, heat breaks down the muscle and other tissues so that with a well-prepared and slowly cooked confit the meat will, practically, melt in your mouth. When the cooking is complete, the confit is preserved under a layer of the same fat in which it was cooked. Originally that thick layer of solidified fat on top and the correct closure in an airtight containers allowed the confit to be kept in a cool place for months.
Whether you are a cook, or not, you know that a stew or soup tastes better on the second or third day. Modern confits are kept in a refrigerator’s cooler, and in a good restaurant they may have been aged there for two weeks. Confits are not served with the fat in which they were cooked and so a duck, goose or pork confit are hardly any fattier than the same dish cooked in any other manner.
Confit of Pork.
Photograph courtesy of Renée S. Suen
Confit de Canard sur Compoté d'Échalotes au Vin Doux - Duck confit served with a shallot compote prepared in sweet wine. In the UK and North America, a compot is stewed fruits served as a dessert; in France, a compote may also be a stewed fruit dessert, but, just as often, as in the menu listing noted here, it is a dish of stewed vegetables.
Le Jambonneau de Porc confit, Laqué Jus au Thym Frais – A pork knuckle confit served coated and flavored with the juices from fresh thyme.
Jarret de Porc Confit en Tartiflette Savoyard
This is a chef’s personal take on the traditional Tartiflette Savoyard recipe, from the region of Savoy France. The traditional tartiflette, also called a reblochon, is a whole reblochon cheese, usually with added crème or crème fraiche, baked and then served over boiled potatoes, bacon bits and onions. Here the cheese, in this case French Emmental, is served over pork shin confit.
Photograph courtesy of Renée S. Suen
Souris d'Agneau Confite dans Son Jus au Romarin et sa Purée Maison. The fore-shank of a lamb flavored with rosemary and served with the restaurant’s own special potato puree. This is not a traditional confit as this cut of lamb does not have a great deal of fat. This is a modern addition and the lamb will not be covered in fat and stored; however, it will have been cooked slowly until the meat is very tender and the flavor intense.
N.B. If you look up this menu listing using your French-English dictionary, you may see that a souris may mean a mouse or a rat. Worry not; this is a cut of lamb and no mice or rats are included. For more about the word souris on the menu see the paragraph marked *Souris at the end of this post.
Cassoulet Maison au Confit de Canard – A cassoulet, a slowly cooked meat and bean stew that originated in the old province of Languedoc, now part of the region of Languedoc-Roussillon region in Southern France. This menu listing indicates that it is prepared with the restaurant’s own recipe and served with duck confit. Duck and other confits are often served with cassoulets; for more on cassoulets see **Cassoulets at the end of this post
When a confit is the central part of a dish it will be served hot and will often be crispy on the outside. Most restaurants heat their confits in a hot oven and then many chefs will use a glaze, often a honey or fruit glaze, to create an attractive and flavorsome outside; the meat inside will be so tasty that nothing else is needed.
When a confit is served as an entrée, the French appetizer, then the confit may be served cold or warm with a salad; the confit will be cut or shredded
Confit de Canard et Chèvre Chaud, Salade Verte - A green salad served with duck confit and warm goat’s cheese.
Salad with duck confit, blue cheese and sliced almonds.
Photograph courtesy of slowlysheturned .
Salade de Gésiers d'Oie Confits - A salad served with goose gizzard confit.
Fruit and vegetables confits.
Confits de Légumes and or a Confit de Fruits are vegetables or fruits slowly cooked with wine, wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar and sometimes added brown sugar. The fruits and vegetables do not need to be stored to achieve unique flavors; they will be offered as sweet jams, condiments or garnishes with their taste made to contrast with the main dish. Some vegetable confits, when served as a garnish, will not be sweetened. Confit de Fruits and Confits de Légumes are not to be confused with Fruit Confits see below ***Fruits Confits.
When fruit or vegetable confits have been cooked for long enough they reach the consistency of a thick jam, then they are ready and then may be served hot or cold. Some confits de fruit may be part of a sauce and served with a main dish or dessert.
Suprême de Pintade Échalotes Confites et Risotto à la Ciboulette - Guinea hen breast served with a shallot confit and a risotto flavored with chives,
Duck confit served with brie and fig confit (jam).
Photograph courtesy of stu-spivack.
Confit d’Oignions – A sweet onion confit, practically an onion jam.
The onions will have been slowly cooked with wine, honey or sugar and sometimes butter and then served alongside or with another dish. The sweet taste is intended to contrast with the central part of the dish. A confiture d'oignons and confit d'oignons may be the same.
Jars of fig and onion confit on sale in France.
Photograph courtesy of Shoot First, Eat Later
Confit de Légumes à l'Ail et au Thym – A confit of mixed vegetables flavored with garlic and thyme. This will be a garnish for a main dish and will not be sweetened.
Confiture – A Jam, or maybe not?
A confiture is usually a jam or fruit preserve; however, certain fruit or vegetable confitures will be indistinguishable from vegetable or fruit confits. It is up to the chef to apply the names and to the diner to avoid any confusion that may be lost in the translation!
Confitures, as jams and cooked fruits, will need their own post so I hope this short note will make the diner read the menu again and avoid the confusion that can occur with confits and confitures,
In the early days of French Haute Cuisine, the names used for sauces, cuts and other dishs were either traditional names or new names allocated without any need to be politically correct. This particular cut of lamb was said to resemble a mouse or small rat and despite the unfortunate connotation, the name stuck.
For your general enjoyment and understanding of the problems found in translation read Umberto Eco's book: Mouse or Rat? Translation as Negotiation. This is the same Umberto Ecco who wrote The Name of the Rose. Umberto Ecco was famous as a translator before he became a novelist.
Cassoulets are slowly cooked stews with recipes that mostly originated in the old province of Languedoc, now within the region of Languedoc-Roussillon in Southern France. The stews may include duck, goose, pork, pork loin, pork belly, bacon, pork rinds, Toulouse sausages and other sausages, and one particular recipe contains partridges. Most cassoulets include tomatoes and carrots among other vegetables, and all contain France’s ever popular haricots blanc, the white dried beans that few French stews omit from their recipes.
The most famous cassoulets are named after the towns of Carcassonne and Castelnaudary in the department of Aude in the Languedoc-Roussillon; Toulouse in the department of Haute-Garonne in the Midi-Pyrenees and Perigueux in the department of Dordogne in Aquitaine. The last is the only famous cassoulet that comes from outside the old province of Languedoc.
These four famous cassoulets are separated by their different ingredients though they all have a common thread in their preparation. All cassoulets will be cooked in the oven, very slowly, and the best are then lightly refrigerated for two or three days to absorb all the flavors and then reheated before serving. Many cassoulets will be served with duck or goose confit; I shall write a separate post, or maybe more than one, on cassoulets
*** Fruits Confit
Hundreds of years ago the French preserved vegetables and fruits through the winter by replacing the water content with honey. The ancient Egyptians already used honey to prevent infection of open wounds, and when the French used honey to replace the water in fruits and vegetables they knew they the fruits and vegetable would not rot, and the results could be kept for years. Now sugar is used instead of honey and Fruits Confit will have to have a separate post.
Bryan G Newman
Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2014.
For information on the book behind the blog contact Bryan Newman
Saturday, February 15, 2014
Munster Cheese. The Premiere Cheese from the Alsace and the Lorraine. Munster’s Irish and Scottish History - Behind the French Menu.
Munster the town and Munster the Cheese.
A stork on a rooftop in Munster.
Photograph courtesy of george kiwi.
Munster the town
The small and attractive town of Munster is in the French department of the Haute Rhine in the Alsace; like many other Alsatian towns many rooftops are home to nesting storks. The town was built around the now derelict Abbey of Saint Gregory of Munster; the original abbey was built by Scottish and Irish monks of the Benedictine order who came to Germany and the Alsace in the 6th century c.e.. The original abbey was rebuilt many times, but destroyed during the French revolution with more damage in WWII. The monks built their abbey in a valley of the Vosges mountains and named it Munster after the southern area of Ireland from which some of the monks came; Munster is still one of Ireland’s provinces.
Ireland’s Munster rugby club flag.
Munster is 17Kms (12 miles) from Colmar, the prefecture, the capital of the department of the Haute Rhine and also 68 km (42 miles) from Basel, Switzerland.
Munster the Cheese
Munster AOP, Munster Kaes or Munster Géromé and Petite Munster AOP is a 45% fat cheese made with unpasteurized cow’s milk.
Phortograph courtesy of Hopkinsii.
This is a tasty, ivory-colored cheese with a rind that begins with a pink tinge for the youngest and drier Petit Munster, to a deep red for a two or three-month mature creamy smooth Munster. While the cheese ages, it is regularly turned and washed in brine which prevents the growth of any mold, but, as may be expected the brine intentionally affects the taste.
Munster in the kitchen.
Munster is a very adaptable cheese and one of the most wonderful desserts I ever had was a warm mature Munster cheese cooked inside a thin crispy pastry and served with the Miel de Sapin des Vosges AOP, a unique pine honey from the Vosge pine forests, that was dribbled all over the pastry. That dessert was wonderful; what a way to enjoy Munster cheese
Your restaurant menu may offer:
Croustillant de Munster au Miel et Salade Verte – Crispy fried Munster cheese with honey dribbled over it and served with a green salad.
Tarte Flambee au Choix (traditionnelle, gratinée, munster). A tart flambee, also called flammen kuechen, made to your choice; choose the traditional version or with grated cheese on top, or made with Munster.
Tarte Flambe with Munster.
Photograph courtesy of Olivier Anh
A tarte flambée with Munster begins with the original tarte flambée recipe which is bread dough covered with crème fraîche and a soft white cheese, thinly sliced onions and lardons, smoked or fried bacon bits; to this is added the Munster cheese. All is baked in an oven for about ten minutes and served. See the post on tarte flambee: Tarte Flambée,Tarte Flambe,Flammen Kuechen; Alsace’s Signature Slow-Fast Food.
Jambonneau Gratiné au Munster sur Choucroute. – Roasted ham hock, also called a pork knuckle, sprinkled with Munster and served on a bed of choucroute, the Alsace’s signature sauerkraut, pickled cabbage.
Tartiflettes au Munster- A tartiflette with Munster will have a whole cheese baked, usually with added cream or crème fraîche and then served over boiled potatoes, bacon bits and onions.
How old is the Munster cheese recipe?
For the monks who came to the valley in the 6th century cheese making was the only way to preserve excess milk before refrigeration; however, today’s Munster cheese was probably developed by the monks a mere 600 years ago. Today the cheese is made on both sides of the Vosges mountains; the two cheeses were united when the cheese earned the right to carry the label AOC/AOP.
The Munster cheese of the Alsace and the Munster cheese of the Lorraine.
Munster is also made in the region of the Lorraine, and that relates to the tradition of taking the cows from Munster to graze over the border. The farmers of the Lorraine then made their own Munster cheese called Géromé or Gerome Munster. A name said to relate, in the Loraine dialect, to the rent paid to the Duke of Lorraine for his permission to graze the Munster cows on his land.
A ripe Munster.
Photograph courtesy of Matt Ryall
Is Munster a smelly cheese?
Munster has a reputation as a smelly cheese; which it deserves; it may be smelly, but when served in small quantities and kept fresh, the smell is far from overpowering. Certain French cheese like Roquefort and Epoisses are higher up the list of smelly cheeses and the UK has its Stilton and Germany has its Limburger all of which are higher up the smell rankings.
Aging Munster cheeses.
Photograph courtesy of geoterranaute.
Buying Munster cheese
In cheese shops in the Alsace where I have bought Munster cheese it is often on sale unwrapped, and on the mature cheeses you may see the brick red rind. Munster is sold in cheese shops all over France and in a wide range of sizes with the smallest only 100 grams.
Munster on Sale.
Photograph courtesy of notfrancois.
When you buy Munster cheese, there are a number of choices other than size to be considered. Apart form the cheese’s age and maturity you may choose a farm made cheese, a cheese made in a co-operative dairy, a cheese made with organic milk, and or versions made with added cumin.
Taking Munster home.
If you buy this cheese to take home, then have it vacuum wrapped. When you arrive home, keep the cheese wrapped in a separate plastic bag in a separate container in the refrigerator, not the freezer; then the cheese’s smell will not affect other cheeses or foods. The stories that I have heard about travelling with this cheese all seem to be related to poor packaging For buying and travelling with cheese see the post: Buying Cheese in France. Bringing French Cheese Home and a Cheese Lexicon for buying French Cheese.
Supporting the Munster cheese
Like nearly all French foods and wines, there is a voluntary group promoting this cheese. In and around Munster are most of the members the Confrérie Saint Grégoire du Taste- fromage de la Vallée de Munster. This confrérie, a brother and sisterhood, aim at inspiring cheese lovers, particularly Munster cheese lovers. They arrange dinners, fetes, and if you are ready to swear your enduring love for Munster cheese you may be accepted as a member.
Crème Fraîche, Creme Fraiche. What is Crème Fraîche? Why is Crème Fraîche part of so Many of France’s Famous Sauces and More.
Miel - Honey. The Many, Varied and Wonderful Honeys of France. The Unique French Dishes made with Honey
What are the initials AOC and AOP on France's Foods and Wine labels? Why is the AOC becoming an AOP?
Posts on other French cheeses:
Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2014.
For more information on the book behind this post contact Bryan Newman