Pork Confit

October 23rd, 2007

I’ve always been intrigued by duck confit. It hits the slow cooking impulse and is made even more appealing just based on the somewhat unusual method of cooking in it’s own fat.
When it came down to actually making duck confit myself, I’ve always found it to be terribly impractical. The price of duck legs is never quite economical when compared to a whole duck and the cost of duck fat is not cheap for a relatively small portion that will probably not have another use. Part of what appealed to me about making confit is that it seems like the sort of thing that should be easily done with parts on hand. And I’m sure it was 200 years ago. These days, not so much.
On Eric’s recommendation, I bought “The Whole Beast” by Fergus Henderson a few weeks ago. I pretty much read it cover to cover. His writing style is so unlike any I’ve ever read in a cookbook.
When I got to the section on confit and discovered that he doesn’t limit the method to ducks, it was a revelation. Immediately I wanted to give it a try. The recipe is ridiculously simple, especially if you pathologically keep home-rendered lard in the house, which I do.
The Foodtown in Bed-Stuy sells pork shoulders cut into slices with a band saw and packaged back together. It was great for pork steaks. Or would have been if the meat wasn’t so tender that many of the steaks broke into yummy bite sized chunks before hitting the table.

Making confit is so simple that barely qualifies as a recipe. The ingredients are pretty fluid. Choosing which meats to use is a bit of a mystery to me. Duck and pork are the fattiest animals we eat, so they seem to make sense. But does chicken? Lamb? Rabbit? Beef? Doubtful. But who’s to say that rabbit can’t be vastly improved by cooking in pork fat. Not me, certainly. I suspect I’ll be spending a good deal of the winter determining which meats benefit from this sort of preparation.
Beyond that, have enough salt, pepper and thyme leaves to sprinkle across each piece of meat on both sides. Stack them up in a non-corrosive container and refrigerate for a day or two. Scrub off as much as you can before continuing.
Next, immerse the meat in warmed liquefied fat, preferably from the kind of animal you are cooking.
Cook at 325 for 3 hours or until the meat is tender. I went with a lower temp and gradually moved it up to 325.
Revel in the wonderfulness and try to remember to share. I left mine to sit in the congealed fat for a week before serving it, so allowing the flavors to settle may be recommended. Apparently it will keep for 6 months, but I can’t imagine keeping it that long without eating it.
For dinner the other night, I took the largest ‘steaks’ and put them on a cast iron in the broiler. The browning added another dimension to an already transcendental meat. The next day we couldn’t be bothered and just scarfed it down as is. Sadly, photographer clay and cook clay rarely co-exist, so I have no record of the pork confit. Given how successful this went, though, I expect to have some on hand in perpetuity.

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