Hear the word confit, and you might think of white-tablecloth French restaurants and a preparation that is complicated and laborious. In fact, making confit is surprisingly easy to do at home. The name comes from the French word confire, which means “to preserve.” Historically, this technique of preparing meat and poultry by cooking them at a low temperature in fat (or cooking fruits in syrup) was used to keep food edible for extended periods of time.
Of course, today we make confit dishes and serve them immediately — they’re so delicious, who would want to wait? Duck confit is rightly considered a French classic — the bird is lightly cured and then cooked in its own rendered fat. The flesh becomes marvelously tender and flavorful, with a delicious crispy skin. But you can take a similar approach with a variety of other foods. In this recipe, salmon is slowly poached in olive oil. The result is incredibly moist and pleasingly light.
This composed salad — which can also be served family-style in a big bowl — evokes the kind of dishes you might find on the menu at a bistro in my hometown of Lyon, where smoked fish, potatoes and earthy lentils are menu staples. It makes the perfect main course for a spring lunch, or you can easily double the quantities if you’re entertaining a larger group. The salad looks impressively delicate and sophisticated on the plate, but at heart it’s simple and unfussy rustic fare, the kind of dish that makes you want to dig right in.
CONFIT SALMON AND POTATO SALAD WITH LENTILS AND CHAMPAGNE-SHALLOT VINAIGRETTE
3 cups olive oil
1 lemon, zest only
2 sprigs thyme
1 clove garlic
3 small Yukon Gold potatoes, thinly sliced
1 red onion, quartered
1 lb. salmon with belly, skin removed
1 cup green lentils
3 T Champagne vinegar
1 shallot, minced
2 T chopped chives
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
5 oz. smoked salmon, cut into small pieces
2 sprigs fresh dill, roughly chopped
2 heads of Bibb lettuce
In a medium saucepan, combine the olive oil, lemon zest, thyme and garlic and heat to between 250˚F and 275˚F, using a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature. Submerge the potatoes and onion and cook for 25 minutes, then add the salmon and cook for 15 minutes more. Remove from the heat and, still in the oil, let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate. Bring 4 cups of salted water to a boil, and add the lentils. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes. Set aside. To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the vinegar, shallot and 1/4 cup of the poaching oil, then add 1 T chives. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Salmon and potatoes poached in olive oil are dressed with a bright vinaigrette to create a salad ideal for lunch or brunch. The table is by and the fork is by .
Once the salmon has chilled, remove it from the pan and break it into pieces in a bowl, adding 1 T of the poaching oil. Stir in the smoked salmon and chopped dill. To assemble individual salads, separate the lettuce leaves into piles of small, medium and large. Place two large leaves on four plates and add layers of sliced potatoes and onion petals to each, seasoning each layer with salt and pepper and drizzling with vinaigrette.
Add two medium-size pieces of lettuce and a layer of lentils, distributing half the lentils among the four salads. Drizzle with vinaigrette. Add two more medium lettuce leaves and a layer of the salmon mixture, using half of the mixture. Next, add small lettuce leaves, the remaining lentils and a layer of potatoes. Top each salad with the small lettuce leaves, the remaining salmon and the smallest onion petals. Drizzle with vinaigrette and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with the remaining chives.
WHAT TO DRINK
“This salad calls for a light, spicy white wine with lots of fresh acidity,” says , head sommelier at restaurant. “A dry Sancerre, made with Sauvignon Blanc grapes, has the body to stand up to the potatoes and salmon and, at the same time, the herbs, spice and acidity to complement the dill and white pepper and minerality to go with the smoked salmon. [$20] is a great option — crisp and light. Muscadet, another wine from the Loire Valley, also works well, for example, the [$15]. It’s a bit more savory and saline.”
This story was originally published in the April 2017 issue of ELLE DECOR.