If you’re hosting Christmas for a large group, you’ll need to think of ways to pack in a lot of flavours without making main dishes unapproachable for picky eaters. Garlic is a popular and versatile savoury ingredient, but for the garlic averse, heavily loading the turkey or mashed potatoes with hunks of the pungent stuff is a little off-putting. But for garlic lovers, there is simply never enough. Serving a plate of confit garlic is a great way to offer extra garlic flavour to those who want it, and also keep the main dishes flexible for everyone to enjoy them the way they like.
Garlic confit is a manner of cooking cloves of garlic in fat. You can confit anything, most popularly chicken, and it’s done by submerging the tasty morsel in liquid fat and cooking it slowly over low heat. Where garlic is concerned, the confit yields a soft, mellow, and spreadable allium. The cooking process takes all of the sharpness out of the garlic and leaves it pleasantly aromatic and toasty, but still unmistakable garlic. The consistency is nearly butter, similar in texture to roasted garlic. Although giving each of your guests a head of roasted garlic is certainly recommended, a ramekin of garlic confit allows your guests the added delight of olive oil enrobing each clove. Scoop up a clove and easily smear it onto any dish that could use a garlicky boost. Easily turn plain rolls into garlic rolls, mashed potatoes into garlic mash, or mix it into your stuffing.
Confiting your own garlic is surprisingly simple and hands-off. The most annoying part is taking all of the garlic paper off of each clove. I recommend cooking the garlic in a small, deep, oven-safe dish, like a ramekin. They’re perfect for practical reasons: Less olive oil is needed to submerge the garlic, but also, ramekins are pretty, so you can use it as a serving vessel on Turkey Day. Peel one head of garlic for, roughly, every two garlic lovers, and place all of the nude cloves into the ramekin. You can take off the stem tip if you wish, but I don’t bother. It’ll all soften up in the end. Pour olive oil into the ramekin until all of the cloves are completely covered. Cover the dish with aluminium foil and bake at 250°F for an hour and a half to two hours, or until the cloves become soft and take on a lightly browned hue.
The confit process is ideal for an afternoon, or movie night, when you’re having some low-key time in the house and can flip the oven on low and come back around in a couple hours. It keeps in the fridge just fine for up to two weeks, so there is no reason this delightful condiment should be part of your stress list the day before family shows up. Keep the garlic submerged in the oil they baked in, covered, in the fridge. When show time arrives, simply remove it in the morning so it comes to room temperature. If you pull it out of the fridge 10 minutes before dinner is served, you might panic because the olive oil has solidified, but don’t worry. This is normal. Pop it in the likely warm and active oven (or on top of the oven if it’s hot enough or the oven is too packed) for five minutes or so to take the chill off, and the oil will liquify again. Sprinkle some flaky salt over the top, and you’ve got a delicious flavour booster to pass around the table.
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