If you were starting anew in a fresh kitchen, what would you take with you? What would you create from scratch? I am quite serious. I ask in earnest. Just imagine a kitchen that is empty. Oh sure, there are some cabinets, a sink, a refrigerator, and an ordinary gas stove. Otherwise, it’s a blank canvas. You might as well have tumbleweeds twirling about through the empty spaces.
It is hard to know where to begin. There are the spices that fill your cupboards, the different types of yeasts, flours, dried beans, and salts. But what other things do you use that might be overlooked? Preserved lemons for the refrigerator? Chicken stock in the freezer? Condiments collected over many many moons? The odd can of white beans or chickpeas in the pantry for the spontaneous hummus craving.
When I left the dormitory in college and moved into my first apartment, I had a mug and a sorry piece of tupperware. That was it. I didn’t own anything else that might be of any use in a kitchen and I had absolutely no idea where to start. The only good thing about the situation was my cluelessness. My excitement to begin real adult life far outweighed any anxiety over the task of stocking a kitchen. My first trip to the grocery store was a total disaster. I didn’t have a list. I headed for the condiment aisle first.
I realize it sounds strange to begin in the condiment aisle, but I had no guidance. What I had was a picture in my head of all the kitchens I knew. Those kitchens of loved ones, friends, and the parents of friends, all had one thing in common. The refrigerators were overflowing with condiments. Mustard. Mayonaise. Ketchup. Soy sauce. Jars of salsa with of various levels of spiciness. Most people’s refrigerators were so full of condiments the doors rattled when they swung wide open. This was what I knew.
I left the grocery store that day with two enormous brown paper bags. They were ridiculously heavy. I had to readjust and set them down on the pavement repeatedly during the short walk back to my apartment. When I finally reached my front door, my arms were barely functioning. However, I managed to empty out the bags nearly immediately. I was motivated by pride, I suppose. I lined the sides of the refrigerator with glass bottles of all sizes. It was so satisfying in that moment. That satisfaction, however, was fleeting. I was hungry. There was nothing to eat. And my arms hurt.
I learned a thing or two from that experience and from the many years of nomadic life which followed. And, today, I find myself walking into a similar situation albeit briefly. I’ll be gone for a month. I leave behind about a million spice jars, the fresh herbs from my garden, my canned goods, my stock of beef and chicken broth, and countless other staples. There are a few things I will bring with me, of course. I’m going to share one of them with you today. It’s garlic confit.
Is this surprising? It might seem a bit out of the ordinary. I know how it sounds, but do you know how it tastes? It’s something to behold. It’s slightly salty and rich. The garlic is golden and roasted to perfection giving it that soft and nearly creamy texture. The pepper adds the softest bite and the bay leaves add the absolute perfect touch of earthiness. The flavors are so perfect yet complex. The possibilities that exist with this very simple condiment are endless. Consider roasted vegetables, soups, vinaigrettes, pastas, dips, tomato sauces. Garlic confit can be added to nearly anything to pump up the volume of a dish.
I hope you love it as much as we do. It’s going into the suitcase for certain.
And, while we are on the topic of packing, I must get to it. But don’t worry. I will still be posting. If you want to know where to find me, follow your nose. There is garlic in the air, I’m sure.
Garlic Confit (makes 3 cups)
3 cups garlic cloves, peeled
1 fresh bay leaf or 2 drived leaves
8 – 10 fresh thyme sprigs
Kosher salt, black peppercorns
About 2 cups blended oil (50% canola. 50% extra virgin olive oil)
Put the garlic cloves in a heavy, covered braising pan or Dutch oven. Add the bay leaf and thyme, a scant tablespoon kosher salt, and 15-20 peppercorns. Barely cover with the oil.
Cover the pan and braise in a 300 degree oven until the cloves are pale golden and very tender, about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cool it to room temperature,
Transfer the garlic and all of the oil to a sterilized jar. Press a square of plastic wrap down directly onto the surface of the oil. Place another square of plastic over the rim of the jar and twist on the lid or secure with a rubber band. With every use, replace the square of plastic that touches the oil and use a perfectly clean fork or tongs each time to prevent cross contamination from the surfaces of your kitchen. As long as the cloves are covered in oil, they will last for at least 3 weeks in the refrigerator.
Note: I halved this recipe and it worked out beautifully!
Source:How to Roast a Lamb.