Monday, February 2, 2015

Recipe: A Confit of Sesame-infused Garlic

Quesadilla made with cheddar and brie cheeses, caramelized onion with a generous shmeer of mashed garlic confit

Use a cast iron pan as a heat diffuser.
Savory, earthy with mild, sweet notes of pine nut— that’s the best way I can describe the complex flavor of garlic confit. The texture of each plump, golden clove is soft enough to spread. Confit (from the French) is a method preserving food by poaching it in oil (or fat) at temperature lower than frying (about 200°F), after which it is stored at a refrigerated temperature. This low-slow cooking renders out allicin, the sulfurous enzyme that gives garlic its pungent aroma and flavor— leaving the sweeter flavor compounds. I’m sure it’s as healthy as all-get-out, but I just love the way it tastes; it deepens the flavor of savory foods.

I first had this wonderful side dish a few years back when my friend Heather McCabe threw a mid-winter party. She baked fresh garlic cloves in extra-virgin olive oil in a covered cast iron dish. I’ve since adapted this recipe for the gas range. The key to this recipe is using fresh plump garlic cloves, good quality olive oil and most importantly low, constant heat. Even if you use a thick-bottom pot you’ll need to use a heat diffuser— or try this kitchen hack: use a cast iron pan instead. I found it delivers a even low heat over an open flame; an added bonus it that it also acts as a heat conductor for an induction burner. 

I cut elephant garlic in half to get an equal size with regular silver skin garlic. The cloves are poached in oil, not fried.

Sesame-infused Garlic Confit
Peel and wash your garlic cloves ahead of time and make sure they are dry before cooking. Select large plump, unblemished cloves of garlic of similar size— even sizes ensure even cooking. If you’re using a cast iron pan instead of a heat diffuser, pre-heat it on medium flame then lower flame for cooking.

TIP: Here’s a quick way to peel whole garlic without making a mess: trim off the hard base on each clove, place three or four cloves into a tall jar, cover and shake vigorously. The skins will have fallen off or come loose enough to peel easily. Discard the the skins or save them to make stock.

You’ll need:
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp EVOO
  • 1 cup whole garlic cloves, peeled and washed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp whole pepper corns
  • 1 1/2 tsp dark roasted sesame oil (not the light cold-pressed type)
  • a small covered pot
  • heat diffuser (or cast iron pan)
Place garlic cloves, bay leaf and pepper corns in small pot and add olive oil. With a heat diffuser (or cast iron pan) placed directly over the flame heat pot on medium heat until the oil just starts to bubble (one minute) then adjust flame to very low heat. This first step is important; the cloves should poach in oil, not fry. If oil starts to boil, remove pot from heat and cool down, then return to burner.

Cover and cook low and slow for about 35 to 40 minutes or until they are golden in color and fork-tender (larger batches may take up to an hour). Check to make sure that the oil does not boil and the garlic cloves are not burning. Add roasted sesame oil and remove from flame; set the pot aside uncovered and allow it to cool.

With a clean spoon carefully transfer garlic to a clean jar, then add the oil and other ingredients from the pot to the jar. Seal tightly and store in the refrigerated. You can eat it once it has cooled but I found it develops a more complex flavor and better texture after 24 hours. Garlic confit will keep for about 6 to 8 weeks in your refrigerator. Mix it with mayonnaise and use it as a sandwich spread or serve as a side dish at the table. On one favorite thing to make with garlic confit is pesto with parsley, ground almonds and a little salt; simply delicious Do not reuse the infused oil for making more confit, use is it to flavor other dishes instead.

Precious amber and gold— garlic confit will keep for 6 to 8 weeks in the refrigerator.

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