May I introduce you to your new best friend, a perfect side partner to innumerable dishes including the next recipe that will come up on the blog. This delightment is so good you will even be tempted to eat it alone.
Alone meaning by itself.
Alone meaning when no one else is around because you will want it all for yourself.
I give you Potato Confit.
Confit, French for preserved, is a food preparation cooks have used since at least medieval times in order to preserve foods far beyond their normal expiration date. In making confit, you preserve an ingredient so it will last months or even years. While confit was originally prepared using sugar or salt, confit now generally means slow cooking an ingredient in some kind of fat.
Cooking in fat. Can’t go wrong there.
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I’ve made various confits for years. While duck confit is the most well known, I love onion confit, tomato confit and garlic confit. This slow cooking preparation draws remarkable flavor from an ingredient, much more so than a traditional quick cook on the stove or in the oven. It also makes your life easy: because this simple process is a method of preservation, you have delicious ready made ingredients at your fingertips to use instantly in your cooking.
Last December I discovered potato confit. I learned about it from Sean Brock’s amazing cookbook, Heritage. Brock is a modern southern cook, owner of the restaurant Husk in Charleston. It’s the best cookbook I’ve discovered in the last year. His Hoppin’ John, for instance, is to die for, made even more mind-blowing by turning some of the peas into a gravy to pour over the peas and rice.
The potato confit, however, is the first recipe I cooked from the book, as it sounded so intriguing. I could not resist the ingredient list as well! My good friend Chris helped me make the first batch just before Christmas. I’ve been making it ever since, experimenting with a variety of uses.
It’s apropro I discovered this before Christmas. It’s the dish that keeps on giving.
Prepping potatoes this way never occurred to me but now that I’ve discovered potato confit, it makes glorious sense. These potatoes taste incredible, have a variety of uses and are quite a bit of fun to make as well. Having a container of potato confit in your fridge, ready to use, will make you very happy.
And it’s easy! All you do is take a variety of fats (see full recipe below) and melt them in a large pot with some seasonings. Then you add the potatoes:
Then you slow roast them for 3 hours in the oven:
What emerges are tender, flavorful potatoes, fully cooked. When cooled down, put them in a container you can keep in the fridge:
Once they are room temperature, stick them in the fridge, where the fat hardens around them, preserving them:
Voila’! Incredible potatoes that are ready for quick preparation as a wonderful side dish to anything, from eggs to roasted meats to fish. These are perfect, for instance, in the morning when you might not have time to spend 20-30 minutes cooking raw potatoes to go with your breakfast. The confit can be ready in 5 minutes or less.
These potatoes are incredible cooked down with onions for a delectable pan roasted potato side dish. Even better, they are easily adaptable to most any added flavor combination. You can pair them with a Mexican meal (add some cumin and oregano), an Indian meal (coriander, garam masala, turmeric, etc), a French flavored meal (herbs de Provence) and on and on. Just spice accordingly when you quickly rewarm them.
Here you see them as a lovely side pairing for the baked omelette I will blog about next:
And here are the dregs of a plate from a recent evening I ate them with a simple fried egg on the side:
Make this confit and keep it in your fridge. Don’t be put off by the fats: these all are natural, meaning they are relatively healthy and you only need a little of the flavored fat to rewarm the potatoes. Make the recipe below, save the confit, and start having fun with them during the week. Under the recipe, I have one of the many ways you can use them once they are waiting patiently in your fridge.
Potato Confit. Your new best friend. Trust me. It’s that good.
5 lbs small heirloom potatoes, washed
1 pd good quality butter
2 cups extra virgin olive oil
2 cups lard
1 cup bacon fat
2 T salt
1 T white pepper
30 thyme sprigs
1 head of garlic, cloves peeled
4 bay leaves
If you have the time, brine the potatoes overnight. It’s easy, see below. And it does make a difference. But if not, just dive in, they are still amazingly wonderful:
– Preheat the oven to 250 F.
– Combine butter, olive oil, lard and bacon fat in a large Dutch oven and heat over medium heat until melted. These are general guidelines, you are not going to mess up if you have a little more of one and a little less of another. NOTE: Unlike my mom, I don’t have bacon fat sitting in a jar next to the stove so when I make this, I just fry up some bacon as the first step. Frying bacon is never a bad thing. Just use the bacon for something else, i.e. eat it right then, and use the leftover fat already in the pan.
– Stir, adding the salt, white pepper, thyme sprigs, garlic cloves and bay leaves, and heat for 10 or so minutes to infuse the fat with flavor.
– Carefully place the potatoes in the hot fat, cover the Dutch oven and transfer to the oven. Slow roast for 3 hours, until the potatoes are very soft. Remove the pot from oven and let it sit until at room temperature.
– Place potatoes in a container that will live in the fridge. You can eat them right away but they are even better after sitting a few days. They last in the fridge at least a month but I doubt they make it that long.
NOTE: Digging for the potatoes is fun. Use a clean spoon, though, not your hands so the bacteria from your hands does not get into the fat.
Now that you have the confit in the fridge, when you want to use them dig out as many potatoes as you want, with some of the fat for your pan. Slice them, dice them, or halve them, whatever shape you desire. Put a skillet over high heat, add a spoonful of the fat, then when it has melted, throw in your potatoes. I like to use high heat here, as the potatoes are already cooked and don’t need much more cooking time. High heat creates a wonderful crispy crust on the outside, with the inside remaining tender. As the potatoes cook, add the spices you like best or that match the main dish you are preparing.
** If you have time, first sauté some sliced or diced onions in the fat. Potatoes and onions? The. Best.
Dicing is easy, of course, but last week I sliced them and the finish was divine. Here they are about to cook:
Experiment with them, you really can’t go wrong. My next spice addition is going to be harissa! And if you try, let me know!
*If you have time to brine:
1 gallon water
2 cups kosher salt
1 cups sugar
Combine 4 cups water, salt and sugar in a large pot and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar. Add remaining water and stir. Add potatoes, remove from stove and cover. Let sit over night. Drain and pat dry before using the the confit recipe.