Confit is a generic term for various kinds of food that have been immersed in a substance for both flavor and preservation. Sealed and stored in a cool place, confit can last for several months. The word comes from the French verb confire, meaning “to preserve”, which in turn comes from the Latin conficere, meaning “to do, to produce, to make or to prepare.”
You might be familiar with duck confit (confit de canard, an essential ingredient in cassoulet) or fruit confiture (whole fruit infused with sugar and preserved; this is different from a jam in that the fruit is usually not puréed).
In modern usage, the word is used to describe a food with the same qualities as confit. Oven-cooking is essential to making vegetable confit. It transforms ordinary vegetables like onion and fennel into something luxurious, with a silken texture that’s soft and buttery. Because food is cooked slowly over time, its flavor concentrates until it acquires an intensity that captures the essence of a vegetable in a single bite.
Carrot and Cauliflower Confit
Imagine the softest, lusciousliest (is that even a word? well, it is now) cauliflower and carrots you’ve ever tasted, infused with garlic, cumin and lemon, and sparked with a flash of cayenne. The confit liquid, which was the olive oil they were slow-roasted in, is worth the price of admission. You’ll want to save this liquid and use it in place of butter to spread over bread, as the base for a salad vinaigrette, or to dress a bowl of steamed vegetables, or as a condiment for soup or stew.
The recipe below is partially adapted from this original by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, of Jean Georges and JoJo (both in New York), Pump Room (Chicago) and Mercato (Shanghai). My version adds cauliflower and capers, substitutes lemon zest and lemon juice for the orange zest and orange juice, and marjoram instead of the cilantro. Otherwise, it’s as written.
This recipe is scaled to serve 2-3 people.
1/2 lb. carrots, preferably organic, trimmed and peeled, then cut into bite-size chunks
1/2 head cauliflower, broken into bite-size florets
large pinch of cumin seed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small clove garlic, minced
juice of two lemons
zest of a lemon
kosher salt, to taste
cayenne pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon chopped marjoram
Preheat oven to 275 degrees. In a large casserole, combine carrots, cauliflower, cumin seed, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and zest. Season with salt and cayenne. Cover tightly with lid or aluminum foil.
On stove top, bring to a boil, then transfer to oven. Bake until a knife can easily be inserted into the vegetables, at least 2 hours. Just before serving, add the marjoram and capers.
Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes, including prep.