Road Foodie

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Comfort Me with Confit, Two

Posted By on May 7, 2009

My lard is very, very good. But a little duck fat adds depth and dimension.

My lard is very, very good. But a little duck fat adds depth and dimension to confit.

I apologize for the break in this instructional series—it was crucially important that I go and get crazy with a bunch of duck-quoting, foie-eating chefs in a cavernous room behind Chelsea Market. It’s a tough job.

But now, it’s back to fat-world: Once my lard has been strained and clarified, by removing the juices from the bottom (save for ethereal bean soup!), I am ready to make the confit itself. Most experts advise a little duck fat, to complement and round out the flavors, so I always keep a few tubs of D’Artagnan duck fat on hand. It is slightly yellower then my Ossabaw lard, and as I scoop in every last drop from the container, this new fat makes trails in the creamy white; it reminds me of whisking up a classic French genoise. At cooking school in England, I knew my genoise mixture was ready when I could write a “B” for Brigit with the foam trailing from my whisk. Only this isn’t a sugar-in-egg emulsion.

If this potentially unappealing image doesn't make you hungry, you've never eaten confit.

If this potentially unappealing image doesn't make you hungry, you've never eaten confit.


Rinsing the salt cure from the meat is a delicate process: I want to take away most—but not all—of the salt, but I don’t want to meat to absorb too much water. So I give each piece a quick massage under running water, then they’re onto a clean towel. Press another towel over the top, blot, press, and the meat is ready to go into the lard, which I’ve warmed to 200F on the stove. Now it’s into the oven, again at a starting point of 240F. Again, I adjust and maintain my barely-bubbling cauldron—oops, Le Creuset— at 200F for about two hours, which past efforts have shown me is the right amount of time for 3+ pounds of meat. The cubes should be pale (actually, rather grey-ish) and giving to the touch, not falling-apart-tender.

Confit cubes, straight out of the lard and headed for the broiler.

Confit cubes, straight out of the lard and headed for the broiler.

For tonight’s dinner, I pull off about one third of the meat. The rest of the sadly slim haul is divided between two bain-marie inserts, and completely covered with lard (once again, it must first be strained and clarified to prevent spoilage). These will age in the refrigerator anywhere from one week to two months, ie, for as long as I can hold myself back from eating them. During that time, the flavor will improve greatly. (It’s not ideal to serve any kind of confit right away, but I am impulsive, and hungry.) The meat juices obtained during the clarifying process are saved, too. In fact, the only thing I threw away in this process was the green paper. (The bone went into a bag in the freezer, for pork stock.)

Crispy on the outside, smooth as silk inside.

Crispy on the outside, smooth as silk inside.

Now the confit, which requires no additional seasoning at the point, can be either high-heat-roasted or broiled, so that the outer surface develops a golden, salty-fatty crust while the inside remains creamy, smooth, and giving to the tooth. I place the hot chunks reverently on top of a mustard-blessed and dressed salad of spring greens, and three of us sit down to sip subtly dry provencal rose, chew, and ruminate on the flu, the economy, and the inconvenient process of aging. The picture conjured by our words is not a pretty one, but these chunks of porcine perfection are just what my inner doctor ordered. The evening leaves us all with a rosy glow, and even better: no one awakens with Wine Flu.
These two mother-lodes of texture and porkiness will age beautifully, just as I try to.

These two mother-lodes of texture and porkiness will age beautifully, just as I try to.

Ah, to be young in the springtime. Or, if not, I am comforted by confit.

Ah, to be young in the springtime. Or, if not, I am comforted by confit.

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