Confit has to be one of the most reward to effort ratio meat preparations that exist. Salt and season, cook gently in fat, store, reheat and eat. That’s it. In these cooler months it is a comforting, relaxing and delicious preparation.
No, there is not that much more to it. Pork confit is what I am posting about here using pork shoulder and it is a classic one as is duck and goose that are key for a proper Cassoulet. Chicken, turkey legs or any tough meat can also be prepared in a pretty similar fashion.
I started the confit a day or two before I planned to cook it by getting the salt and spice mixture on the meat. The main element to pay attention to here is the salt. I use 1.5% of the weight of the meat in salt. The spices and other flavorings can be varied and changed up as needed and I never weigh them. I usually stick with classic flavorings like I did here with garlic, bay leaves, thyme, parsley, shallots, black pepper and juniper. I use a similar combination for duck confit. This process and recipe is adapted from Paula Wolfert’s classic “The Cooking of Southwest France“.
To get a good extraction of flavor, I use my mortar and pestle to pulverize the salt and spices. The meat gets coated with this tasty paste and rests in the fridge for 24-48 hours. After the curing time I put the meat in a heavy pot where the meat fits snuggly in and covered it with lard along with a head of garlic cut in half and stuck with whole cloves and a few bay leaves. I start the cooking on the stove top to get it going and then the meat cooks in a low oven (about 200 F) for hours until very tender and then allowed to rest until fully cooled in the fat. Traditionally the confit is stored in that fat that preserves it. I rarely do that. At times when I cook the confit sous vide (I usually do that with duck confit) I only use a couple of tablespoons of fat per bag and freeze the confit in the bags until ready to use.
When the meat is cooled I removed it from the fat and stored it in the fridge. A couple of byproducts of the process is a very flavorful lard and a pork jelly/jus which is an awesome concentrated flavor boost to any stew or meat sauce. Now, what to do with the confit? Another classic French preparation is to make rillettes. To do this, I very finely minced some of the meat and packed it in small ramekins with a layer of fat on top. Delicious on top of toasted bread with a smear of mustard and fig mostarda.
It is delicious on it’s own as the main component of a dish as well. In this case I roasted a winter squash and pureed the flesh with butter. I crisped up the pork chunks on all sides and glazed them with a few spoons of the confit jus. To serve, I topped the squash with the pork, added a handful of bread pieces that I had crisped up in oil for texture and a few slices of pickled plums for a much needed acidity.