Widening the definition of a classic dish
Octopus salad in lemon-confit vinaigrette at Calliope (Photo: Alexander Thompson)
Historically, confit was a classic technique for preservation.
By cooking and storing meat in its own fat, it was rendered silky, flavorful and more or less shelf-stable.
Today, we’re still besotted with confit’s ability to transform texture and supplement flavor.
Then the limits of our confiting skills exploded at the seams when we recently dined at Calliope in New York City. There, chef Eric Korsh dodges the traditional duck, subjecting lemons and garlic to the transformative technique.
Eschewing fat, Korsh follows the method in Thomas Keller’s French Laundry Cookbook, cooking lemon rinds slowly in sugar syrup. Then Korsh adds the pulp to a vinaigrette lifted from his days working at Picholine, one laden with anchovy and balsamic vinegar (see the recipe).
We questioned the fuss. Fresh squeezed lemon juice, after all, has always done us just fine. But Korsh’s lemon confit is to lemon juice what ketchup is to raw tomato--an entirely different animal.
Plus, the mellow confit has endless applications. Use it in vinaigrette, dice it into a rub for meat or blend it into a sauce.
Old duck, new tricks.
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