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A Perfect Pair of Confits

Confit, which derives from the French verb confire (to preserve), is a cooking method that originated in the Gascon region in the south of France.
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May 2, 2024
Photo by Sephardic Spice Girls

Friday night dinner is the quintessential Jewish experience. The ultimate reward for a long week of work and school. It’s the showcase for Jewish food, be it matzah ball soup or Yemenite soup, gefilte fish or Moroccan fish.

For me, Friday night dinner is when I try to delight my family and friends with the most delicious foods I can prepare — tender short ribs, juicy chicken, crispy potatoes and the creamiest, softest, sweetest sweet potatoes. There will be slow-simmered Iraqi-style stews and perfectly steamed basmati rice, lots of salads, one special dessert and fresh fruit.

We often start our Friday night meal with fluffy challah topped with freshly chopped garlic and extra virgin olive oil. Honestly, it’s so good that I often think that it could suffice for the whole meal.

When I inform guests that garlic is antiviral, antibacterial and anti-fungal, my husband likes to add, “and antisocial!”

When I inform guests that garlic is antiviral, antibacterial and anti-fungal, my husband likes to add, “and antisocial!”

As much as I love garlic raw, sometimes I change it by roasting the garlic in an olive oil confit, rendering the garlic all soft and buttery.

Confit, which derives from the French verb confire (to preserve), is a cooking method that originated in the Gascon region in the south of France. Duck and geese were slowly cooked over low heat in their own fat, then stored in clay pots that were sealed with another layer of fat to be consumed in the winter.

Of course, our modernday confit is meant to be devoured immediately. Our recipes for tomato and garlic confit and vegetable confit are truly easy and very impressive. The vegetable confit takes wonderful root vegetables and infuses them with the subtle sweetness of the aromatics — a dozen cloves of garlic, red onion and bay leaf. The fennel, turnip, and orange and purple heirloom carrots caramelize in the oven, intensifying all the delicious flavors.

Just fine for eating with challah.

Sharon

Unlike Sharon’s family, we are not big fans of raw garlic. But a few years ago, I started noticing recipes for garlic confit and we’ve been hooked ever since. Roasted garlic with herbs, salt and olive oil is amazing, but adding cherry or grape tomatoes takes it to a new level. The contrast of the soft, sweet garlic and fresh juicy brightness of the tomatoes is a culinary delight. I also like to change it up by adding a few sprigs of thyme or fresh oregano.

A mezze of fresh dips on the table has become a very popular, modern way to entertain. For Sephardic Jews, salatim are an imperative. We’ve had them on our table all our life—hummus, tahini, matbucha, salad cuite, grilled peppers, pickles and eggplant. But when I present my guests with poached garlic and tomatoes, it’s a pleasant surprise.

This is unlikely, but if you have any leftovers, there are many options for repurposing.

The garlic cloves are perfect for smearing on anything—especially toast (garlic bread, duh). Mix them into hummus or to top your other dips. Add them to a pan of fried eggs and braised spinach for a healthy breakfast.

Blend the roasted vegetables into soups or add them to any pasta dish. Add them to the pan when cooking meat, fish, or vegetables and toss them with roasted potatoes.

This Friday night, Sharon and I hope you will serve a lovely garlic and vegetable confit and enjoy it with a fresh crusty challah surrounded by the faces you love the most.

A truly precious reward.

—Rachel  

Cherry Tomato Confit 

10–12 cloves of garlic, peeled
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1–1 ½ cups olive oil (tomatoes should be covered at least half way)
1 handful of fresh herbs, like basil, oregano, thyme or dill

Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Place the tomatoes, garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil to a small ovenproof baking dish.
Gently stir until the tomatoes and garlic are evenly coated.
Sprinkle the fresh herbs on top.
Cover the dish with foil, then place on a sheet tray to catch oil splatter.
Roast in the oven until tomatoes burst a little, about 20 minutes.
Remove foil and cook for 10 more minutes.

Vegetable Confit

1 large fennel, cut into wedges
2 medium turnips, lightly peeled, chopped into wedges
2 medium heirloom carrots, cut into 1/2″ thick pieces
1 large red onion, cut into wedges
12 garlic cloves, peeled
4 bay leaf
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
2 sprigs rosemary, for garnish

Preheat oven to 400°F.
In a medium ovenproof dish, arrange the fennel, turnip, carrots, onion and garlic, then tuck the bay leaf in between the vegetables.
Sprinkle the salt and pepper over the vegetables, then cover with the olive oil.
Roast in the oven for 1 hour.
Garnish with rosemary before serving.


Sharon Gomperts and Rachel Emquies Sheff have been friends since high school. The Sephardic Spice Girls project has grown from their collaboration on events for the Sephardic Educational Center in Jerusalem. Follow them on Instagram @sephardicspicegirls and on Facebook at Sephardic Spice SEC Food. Website sephardicspicegirls.com/full-recipes.

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