Saturday, March 1, 2014

Confit? All About That Confit on Your French Menu. Confit in French Cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
 Updated March 2019

Duck’s Leg Confit
Poultry and meat confits.
Poultry, pork, lamb and beef confits are dishes that would never have been created today; today everyone has a refrigerator with a freezer. The first 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.
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. Before refrigeration, the thick layer of fat would solidify on top, and with the correct closure in an airtight container kept in a cool place, the confit would keep for months.   

Duck confit with roasted peaches & cherries

You don’t have to be a cook to 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 or more weeks. Confits are not served with the fat in which they were cooked, and so a duck, goose, lamb or pork confit is hardly any fattier than the same dish prepared in any other manner.   
Pork Confit.
Confit on French Menus:
Confit de Canard sur Compoté d'Échalotes au Vin Dou-  Duck confit served with a shallot compote prepared in a 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 above, it is a dish of stewed vegetables.

Le Jambonneau de Porc confit, Laqué Jus au Thym Frais – A pork knuckle confit served coated with honey or another sweet covering and flavored with the juices from fresh thyme.

Poached pork fillet with confit pork belly,
boudin noir, confit of brussels sprouts and raisin jus.
Jarret de Porc Confit en Tartiflette Savoyard A take on the traditional Tartiflette Savoyard recipe, from the region of Savoy, France.  There the traditional tartiflette also called a Reblochonade, is a whole Reblochon cheese, baked, usually with added crème or crème fraiche, baked and then served over boiled potatoes, bacon bits and onions. The dish is often accompanied by ham and other cold meats. The cheese, in this menu listing, is French Emmental, and it is served over pork shin confit. (Jarret de Veau is the French Italian Veal Osso Buco).

Tartiflette and cold cuts
Souris d'Agneau Confite dans Son Jus au Romarin et sa Purée Maison  Foreshank of lamb cooked in its own juices and flavored with rosemary, the herb; the dish is accompanied by the restaurant’s own special potato puree.  This is not a traditional confit, as this cut of lamb does not have lots of fat.  Here we have a modern addition, where the lamb will not be covered in fat and stored.  Nevertheless, it will have been simmered 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, is a slow-cooked meat, and bean stew with many recipes originating in the old province of Languedoc, now part of the region of Languedoc-Roussillon region in  Southern  France.  This menu listing indicates that the cassoulet is prepared with the restaurant’s own recipe that includes duck confit.  Duck and other confits are often part of cassoulets.

Braised white beans, duck leg confit, garlic sausage, pork belly.

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.
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. Their taste intentionally contrasts 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.

Confit cherry tomatoes

When the fruit or vegetable confits have been cooked for long enough, they reach the consistency of a thick jam; then they are ready and 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. Here the shallots will have been cooked to the consistency of a jam,
Confit d’Oignions – A sweet onion confit, an onion jam.
The onions will have been slowly cooked with wine, honey or sugar, sometimes with added butter, and then served alongside the main part of the dish that the sweet taste will provide the contrast.   The sweet taste will contrast with the central part of the dish.  N.B. A confiture d'oignons and a confit d'oignons may be the same.
Confit de Légumes à l'Ail et au Thym – A confit of mixed vegetables flavored with garlic and thyme. This confit will be a garnish for the main dish and will not be sweetened.

Confiture – A Jam, or maybe not?
A confiture is usually a jam or fruit preserve; however, particular 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 translation!

Confitures, like 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.

Confitures de Fruits
Fruits Confit (This is not a Confiture de Fruits).

Hundreds of years ago the French preserved suitable vegetables and fruits through the winter by replacing their 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;  kept in a cool room the results could be kept for years.  Today, sugar is used instead of honey and Fruits Confit will need a separate post.

Fruits Confit.
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Bryan G. Newman

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