Garlic confit, if you aren’t familiar with it, might sound like a complicated French dish. But really, it’s a simple and easy way to prep all the garlic you need for weeks, or even months. The technique is also a great way to make vegetables into buttery soft, spreadable schmears.
I made some garlic confit the other day out of crankiness. I wanted roasted garlic and didn’t feel like turning on the oven. So I put whole cloves of garlic in a pan with olive oil to cover, and I simmered them over very low heat until they were tender.
That’s it. I had time to sit quietly and investigate my bad mood. And then I had garlic confit to smash on toast, so it was a win-win.
Of course, you can confit in the oven, but it works either way.
Garlic Confit makes Garlic Easy
Garlic is a good thing to eat plenty of, during cold season, and has many health benefits, from lowering cholesterol to boosting immunity, so this process will also make it easy to eat more healthy garlic!
Confit is a process, and it is most commonly associated with preserving duck, by salting it and then slow cooking it in its own fat. Some chefs might get cranky about calling what I’m doing “confit,” because the original method was all about meat and the fat that came with it. Plant-based chefs have been taking the techniques used to cook flesh and running with them, so if you don’t like calling it confit, I guess you’ll just have to get over it.
The process of slow cooking in oil is just as effective for cooking plant foods, and we should all do more of it. Enveloping a vegetable in oil seals in the moisture, and gives the veg an unctuous, buttery texture. Low, slow cooking sweetens without browning. Get your thermometer out, you do want to get the oil up to 160 F, for food safety reasons. The flavors in good olive oil seep into your vegetables, and the flavors of the veggie infuse the oil. Throw in some herbs, dried chilis, citrus zest, peppercorns, or whatever you want to infuse into the mix, and you’ve got a potent secret ingredient to add depth to everything you cook.
Confit Veggies, too
Any root veg or densely fleshed veg is up for confit, from onions, beets and carrots to winter squash or green beans. Fool around with it, salt the veg first, let stand for 20 minutes, then confit until soft. Then you’ll have a jar of super soft, super flavorful veg to play with.
Maybe garlic confit hasn’t caught on because of our lingering fears of fat, hanging on from the fat-free days of yesteryear. Some of you might wince at pouring half a bottle of spendy extra virgin olive oil into a pot, but fear not, it will not go to waste. You do use a good amount of oil to make a confit. Don’t worry, you won’t serve it all with one dish, but instead, you’ll use it as a seasoning in other dishes. The extra oil is a bonus, infused with the flavors of the garlic, or other vegetables you confit-ed in it. Just cook with it as you were going to anyway.
Make Easy Meals with Your Confit
I used my garlic and watermelon radish confits to make this easy pasta. It doesn’t look all that amazing, because the secret is in the garlic oil that coats the pasta. It’s studded with buttery soft whole cloves of garlic and wedges of meltingly soft watermelon radish, and sprinkled with fresh thyme leaves.
Of course, garlic confit makes an instant app, spread on bread, or a salad dressing, just mash the garlic and mix in some lemon or vinegar. I made a Winter Squash Hummus with a generous does of confit garlic and its oil and it was a big hit over the holidays. Throw the cloves on top of a soup for a beautiful garnish, or stir them into spaghetti sauce. It’s garlic prep, with no need to chop.
Even if you just mash some garlic confit on a sandwich, you’ll be glad you have it. And maybe even keep vampires at bay!
Garlic and Radish Confits with Rotini Pasta
- 3 heads garlic peeled
- extra virgin olive oil
Watermelon Radish Confit
- 4 medium watermelon radishes peeled and quartered
- extra virgin olive oil
- 8 ounces whole wheat rotini
- 1/4 cup oil from confit
- 1 cup grape tomatoes halved
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme chopped
- 3 medium scallions chopped
- 1/4 cup garlic confit
- 6 pieces watermelon radish confit
- plenty of good coarse salt
- toasted sliced almonds
- Place the garlic in a small pot and pour in olive oil to cover. Over medium heat, bring to a bubble, then lower the heat to keep the oil just barely bubbling. Check the temp, 160 F is what you are going for.
- Cook for about 45 minutes, until garlic is very tender when pierced with a knife. Cool in the oil, transfer to a clean jar. Refrigerate for up to a week.
- Salt the radishes and let stand for 20 minutes, then pat dry. Place the radishes in another pot, cover with oil. Repeat the process, cook for about 45 minutes to an hour at 160 F. Transfer to a clean jar. Refrigerate for up to a week.
- Put on a big pot of salted water for the pasta. Cook, according to package directions, about 10 minutes.
- Drain the pasta. In the same pot, warm the olive oil, then add the tomatoes, thyme and scallions. Saute over medium heat until the tomatoes are softened. Add the garlic and radishes and heat through, then add the drained pasta and toss to coat. Season with salt.
- Serve pasta hot with toasted almonds.