Mumbai Food: Try French cooking technique while cooking meat
Bring in the festive season with a French cooking technique that will elevate the taste of meat
The holiday season is upon us, and if you are dreaming about a big fat meal, then Siddhesh Raut, senior head chef, M.I.T.R.O.N, has just the right cooking technique for you - confit.
Derived from the French word 'conficiere', confit literally means 'to preserve', and finds its roots in Gascony, the Southwest region of France. Raut, however, was introduced to this method while he was studying in London. "It stayed with me," he says.
The technique involves cooking food dipped in grease, oil or sugar syrup at a low temperature. Unlike deep frying which is done at a very high temperature, confit preparations are done at 90 degree Celsius or even cooler at times. Chef Raut explains, "When you prepare meat through this method, it needs to be salted and then cooked in its fat. The confit can be stored for months and years if sealed and stored well in a cool and dark place."
Fill the container with fat of any kind and ensure that the ingredients are fully dipped in it. Pics/Sameer Markande
It's a two-day process, though, which starts off by marinating the meat (or vegetables) in sea salt, chopped celery and garlic for 24 hours. Next day, you rinse the duck leg with water and place in a deep container. "Fill the container with the fat of any kind and make sure that the ingredients are fully dipped in it," he says. Cover the same with a foil and cook it in the oven at 90°C for six hours. You can tell if the meat is cooked if it easily comes off when pulled out of the bone. Once cooked, strain out the same and retrieve the fat for next time. Pull out the meat from the bone.
"One can even use vegetable oil/clarified butter/any edible grease as fat", adds Raut. The beauty of the confit method is that it enhances the flavours and texture of the meat. The process slowly breaks down the muscles and connective tissues, and the flavours gradually seep into the meat and preventing it from overcooking. When you finally eat the dish, the meat will fall apart from the bone and have an incredibly tender texture.
The method retains the moisture of the meat and prevents it from drying, resulting in a juicier flavour without making it too greasy.
Why it's not pickling
During Christmas, it's common to see jars filled with confit of various kinds such as pickled vegetables, and tomatoes along with meat confits. But as concepts, pickling and confit, cannot be used interchangeably, says Raut. "In pickling, you are simply preserving and extending the lifespan of the food by fermenting it in brine or immersing it in vinegar. On the other hand, confit is a process which requires slow cooking of the meat in its own fat and then preserved."
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