Confit (French, pronounced [kɔ̃fi] or in English "con-fee") is a generic term for various kinds of food that have been cooked in grease, oil or sugar water (syrup). Sealed and stored in a cool, dark place, confit can last for several months or years. Confit ("prepared") is one of the oldest ways to preserve food, and is a specialty of southwestern France.
The word comes from the French verb confire (to prepare), which in turn comes from the Latin word (conficere), meaning "to do, to produce, to make, to prepare". The French verb was first applied in medieval times to fruits cooked and preserved in sugar.
Fruit confit are candied fruit (whole fruit, or pieces thereof) preserved in sugar. The fruit must be fully infused with sugar, to its core; larger fruit take considerably longer than smaller ones to candy. Thus, while small fruit such as cherries are confits whole, it is quite rare to see whole large fruit, such as melon confits, making large fruit confits quite expensive.
Confit of goose (confit d'oie) and duck (confit de canard) are usually prepared from the paws of the bird. The meat is salted and seasoned with herbs, and slowly cooked submerged in its own rendered fat (never to exceed 85 °C/185 °F), in which it is then preserved by allowing it to cool and storing it in the fat. Turkey and pork may be treated similarly. Meat confits are a specialty of the southwest of France (Toulouse, Dordogne, etc.) and are used in dishes such as cassoulet. Confit preparations originated as a means of preserving meats without refrigeration.
In a restaurant context, confit must also have a crispy skin.
Traditional meat for confit include both waterfowl such as goose and duck, and pork. Duck gizzards are also commonly cooked in the confit method. Varying forms of this delicacy thrive throughout southern France.
Confit country is divided roughly into regions where one type of meat predominates the confit preparations. Goose confit is associated with the Béarn and Basque regions with their classic specialties of cassoulet and garbure, hearty and earthy dishes of confit and beans. Saintonge and Brantôme feature duck confit, often with potatoes and truffles.
Non-waterfowl meats are frequently treated to the confit process, but they are not classically considered true confits. The French refer only to duck and goose confits as true confits; other meats poached in duck or goose fat are considered en confit ("in confit"). For example, chicken cooked in goose fat is called poulet en confit. Pork is often confit and shredded to create rillettes.
Italian cooking uses a number of "condiment confits", such as onion confit, chili confit and garlic confit.
- Plummer, Paul. Sensual Preservation: The Art of Confit.
- Larousse gastronomique: the encyclopedia of food, wine & cookery, Ed. Charlotte Turgeon and Nina Froud. New York, Crown Publishers, 1961. The English translation of the 1938 edition. ISBN 0-517-50333-6
- James, Kenneth. Escoffier: The King of Chefs. Hambledon and London: Cambridge University Press, 2002.