A few years ago it was the obvious garnish to nearly every dish: oven roasted cherry tomatoes, preferably on the vine. It looks and tastes nice plus it is easy to make. Just heat your oven to 180 °C or 350 °F, add the tomatoes to a baking dish, sprinkle with salt, olive oil and 30 minutes later they’re ready to serve. When cold you can add them to a salad or a sandwich with soft cheese (mozzarella, burrata, ricotta). An alternative is to halve the tomatoes, sprinkle with salt and quickly roast and dry them in the oven. Another tasty result.
We prefer a slow alternative: Tomato Confit. The idea is that the skin doesn’t crack, so the tomatoes remain intact, and at the same time they absorb the flavours of the oil, herbs and garlic. The result is not just a great sweet and juicy tomato, it’s a taste explosion!
Wash and dry the tomatoes and add these to a baking dish. Chop the garlic. Add herbs, garlic and a generous amount of olive oil to the dish. No salt, honey or sugar required. Put in the oven for something like 2 hours on 90 °C or 200 °F. You could baste the tomatoes once or twice. Don’t forget to use the cooking liquid as well, it’s another pack of flavours!
In 2010 James Tanner published his inspiring book Takes 5: Delicious Dishes Using Just 5 Ingredients. Short shopping lists, easy recipes and tasty results: what more can you ask for! He could have included Onion Confit in his book, but he didn’t. Five ingredients: onions, olive oil, time and perhaps bay leaf and some water are all you need to create a condiment that is perfect with roasted meats and foie gras. It comes with subtle, natural sweetness and lots of umami.
Let’s first discuss the name: it is confit because it is cooked slowly, in fat, over a long period of time. It’s not chutney for the simple reason that it does not originate from India or Pakistan plus there is no need to add various herbs and spices. It’s also not marmalade because we don’t use the peel of the onion.
Onions contain a chemical substance called inulin (also to be found in for instance bananas and Jerusalem artichokes) and given time and warmth it will breakdown into fructose: fruit sugar. Vinegar stimulates this process. So it’s yes to adding vinegar and no to adding sugar.
So how to turn white onions into a deep brown confit? Obviously we don’t add brown caster sugar (as unfortunately so many recipes suggest). Perhaps use balsamic vinegar? Nice try, but no. The only thing you need to do is to cook the onions on very low heat for 8 hours or so.
We served our Onion Confit with Terrine de Foie Gras on toast and a glass of Coteaux du Layon produced by Château de la Roulerie. This is a slightly sweet, golden white wine, made from Chenin Blanc grapes. In general a late harvested, not too sweet wine will be an excellent choice but you could also go for a glass of Champagne or Gewurztraminer.
What You Need
4 White (or Spanish) Onions
1 tablespoon of Vinegar
What You Do
Peel, slice and quarter the onions. Warm a heavy enamelled iron pan, add olive oil and add the onions. Allow to simmer on very low heat for 30 minutes. Add the vinegar and allow to simmer for an additional 8 hours. Check every hour, give a gentle stir and if needed add some water. Let cool and store in the refrigerator. It will last for a week.
Think France, think a small restaurant in a small street, nice and simple, no Michelin star in sight. It’s 12.30, time for a quick lunch. You enter the restaurant, take a seat and order today’s dish, the plat du jour. It turns out to be a generous helping of lentils with confit de cuisse de canard and parsley. After having enjoyed your lunch, you think about the joy of good food and the beauty of lentils. Lentille Verte du Puy, such a treat! The combination of the confit, the lentils and the parsley with the sweetness of the shallot and the garlic is elegant, moist and full of flavours.
Feel free to buy ready-made confit. You could of course make it yourself but it is fairly time consuming and not something you would do for two confits only. In our experience most of the confits you can buy (tinned or vacuumed) will be fine. If you’re lucky your local butcher will make his or her own confits. We have included an alternative recipe below.
We suggest a glass of not too complex red wine; a well-balanced wine with notes of red fruit, gentle tannins and not too oaky. We enjoyed a glass of Bordeaux-Supérieur, Château Picon.
What You Need
1 Garlic Glove
Lentils (Lentille Verte du Puy O.P & A.O.C. from Sabarot)
Finely chop one shallot and glaze gently in olive oil. In the mean time check the lentils for small pebbles; wash them. Once the shallot is glazed add the crushed coriander seed and the lentils. Heat and stir for one minutes, as you would do with risotto rice. Add some chicken stock and water (the stock is only intended to give the lentils a small push) and leave to simmer on low heat. When the lentils are nearly done, finely chop the other two shallots and glaze gently in olive oil and in the fat that comes with the confit. In parallel warm the two confits. After a few minutes add the finely chopped garlic to the shallot. Chop the parsley. When the garlic and shallot are nicely soft and sweet, add the parsley, some black pepper and then mix with the lentils. Remove the skin from the confit and serve the duck on top of the lentils. Perhaps serve with a simple green salad.
Alternative Way of Making Confit of Duck
Start by crushing a nice amount of juniper berries. Take a sheet of strong aluminium foil, add some crushed berries, a bay leaf and put one duck leg (skin side up) on top. Drizzle with plenty of olive oil. Add the remainder of the berries and a second bay leaf. Wrap the meat in foil, making sure it is tightly closed and the foil intact. If not sure wrap with a second piece of foil. Transfer to a warm oven (90° Celsius or 200° Fahrenheit) for at least 8 hours.