Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. That means five ingredients or fewer — not including water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (like oil and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. Inspired by the column, the Big Little Recipes cookbook is available now. Like, right now.
We have entered the season of chicken soup, thick sweaters, throat-coat tea, double socks, and, coziest of all, garlic confit. With this stowed in the fridge, there is no meal you cannot make snugger at the drop of a dime.
Confit is a classic French technique that traditionally involves meat, especially goose or duck. In that case, you'd leisurely cook the meat in its own fat, then use that fat to extend its shelf life.
"In the days before vacuum packing, confit meats were placed in crockery pots or jars filled with duck fat, then covered with pork fat and stored in a cool cellar," according to D'Artagnan, a leading purveyor of specialty meats.
Beyond meats, though, there is a whole world of ingredients that long to be swaddled in fat, tucked in the fridge, and told everything is going to be all right.
There is onion confit, mushroom confit, and eggplant confit, to name just a few. Like poultry, garlic confit is another specialty of the Gascony region of France. Unlike poultry, garlic confit isn't a meal in itself — it's a seasoning.
Or, as I like to think of it, a superhero.
If you have garlic and oil, you can have garlic confit. And if you have garlic confit, you can have a lot of things, from salads to soups to inner peace. But let's start with the salads.
10 ways to conquer winter with garlic confit
1. Vinaigrette: Add a few cloves of garlic confit to a jar. Top with equal parts of garlicky oil and your pick of vinegar (say, sherry, or a mix of red wine and balsamic). Sprinkle with lots of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mash and stir with a fork.
2. Avocado toast: To a piece of grainy-seedy toast, add half an avocado, a spoonful of Greek yogurt, and a couple cloves of garlic confit. Smush with a fork to roughly combine. Spritz with lemon juice, then dust with flaky salt and chile flakes (bonus points for urfa biber).
3. Mashed anything: Boil or roast whatever you want: gold potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, cauliflower. Purée with a fork or masher or food processor. Stir in some garlic confit cloves and oil. Season with flaky salt and roughly ground black pepper. Drizzle with honey or maple syrup.
4. Grilled cheese: Between two slices of sourdough, sandwich shaved cheddar, smashed garlic confit, grainy Dijon mustard, and a fistful of baby arugula. Smear the outside with mayonnaise and toast in a hot skillet until crispy and melty.
5. Creamy soup: Just before you purée any soup — butternut, carrot, tomato — add several cloves of garlic confit, however many you think will make you hoot and holler. Blend into oblivion. Ladle into a bowl and swirl with garlic confit oil.
6. Scrambled eggs: Heat a spoonful of garlic confit oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Beat a couple eggs with a fork in a bowl. Pour the eggs into the hot oil and immediately lower the heat to low. Drag the eggs around the pan until ruffly and almost fully cooked, then cut the heat. Top with a couple torn cloves of garlic confit, plus a whoosh of crème fraîche.
7. Fried bread: Pan-fry thickly sliced challah or brioche in garlic confit oil until golden brown. Let cool, then top with labneh or ricotta, garlic confit cloves, a squeeze of lemon, and thinly sliced jalapeño.
8. Busy beans: Open a can of chickpeas. Drain, rinse, and dry them. Dump in a bowl and dress with garlic confit oil, balsamic vinegar, plus shaved (insert whatever cheese is in the fridge) plus chopped (insert whatever herb is in the fridge).
9. Twirlable noodles: Boil half a pound of spaghetti or ramen in salty water. Add half a dozen garlic confit cloves and a few spoonfuls of oil to a bowl. Use tongs to transfer the pasta and toss with a big splash of pasta water. Tack on a bonus or two if you want (spinach or arugula, Parm or pecorino, soy sauce or miso).
10. Boiled vegetables: Are loveable! Cook until crisp-tender in salty water, transfer to a plate or platter, and drown in garlic confit oil. That's it.
Heads up: Because garlic confit is so low in acid, mindful storage is especially important. To reduce the risk of food-borne botulism, garlic confit should always be chilled, not kept at room temperature. When working with garlic confit, use a clean utensil to take out what you need, then immediately return the jar to the fridge to avoid the batch coming up to room temperature. And make sure you use it up within 2 weeks. (Luckily, this has never been a problem for me.)
Recipe: Garlic Confit
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Serves: 6 to 8
- 3 heads garlic, broken into cloves, ends trimmed, peeled
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Combine the garlic cloves and olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and bring to a gentle simmer. Lower the heat, likely all the way, to maintain a gentle simmer, like bubbling seltzer, for 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours, until the cloves are very tender and golden brown. Transfer to an airtight glass jar, making sure the cloves are submerged in the oil, and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Or freeze in an airtight freezer-safe container for up to 3 months.