Grilled steak with a tarragon & mushroom sauce, served with a luscious cannellini bean salad.

Bring these flavors together with a garlic confit, a magical concoction with hundreds of uses.

Bring these flavors together with a garlic confit, a magical concoction with hundreds of uses.

Turning a simple dinner into an obsession

I'm proposing a menu here: Steak, bread, and salad. 

But I want to take all this up a notch by having you make up a garlic confit and spreading its magic through all the dishes. 

Garlic on its own is sometimes sweet and sometimes bitter -- often with a bite. But when you slowly poach garlic in great olive oil, the flavors develop into a round, sweet, aromatic but mysterious potion. It can take a steak from good to great, a salad from delicious to obsession-inducing, and bread from a "side" to a superstar at the table. 

I love ingredients like garlic confit because they are extraordinarily delicious and versatile, and also incredible time-savers. I can make garlic confit ahead, pull it out, slip it into my dishes, and -- with zero compromise -- put great food on the table in no time.

Make the steak, and take it from good to great

The steaks are hard-seared on the EuroCAST grill pan here, but you can use the skillet, too. The little bits of delicious  fond  left by the steak stay in the pan to add flavor to the mushrooms and butter. 

The steaks are hard-seared on the EuroCAST grill pan here, but you can use the skillet, too. The little bits of delicious fond left by the steak stay in the pan to add flavor to the mushrooms and butter. 

I have a very personal, almost religious relationship to cooking a steak. And I know everyone has their own religion on this. So do your own voodoo here. 

But, if you’re doing this recipe, here’s what you need to know: Hard sear, good S&P, and a mushrooms/tarragon/garlic confit finish that will knock your socks off.

Here are the deets. 

Mushrooms add depth to steak's flavor. Here I'm using bunishemeji (also called brown beech) mushrooms. Gorgeous and delicious.

Our 11" Grill Pan. Non-Toxic non-stick cast construction. $80 off. Because steak deserves this pan.

Our 11" Grill Pan. Non-Toxic non-stick cast construction. $80 off. Because steak deserves this pan.

Start by sautéing the bunashimeji mushrooms in a knob of butter (4 Tablespoons) over low heat, stirring occasionally until soft. Add in 4-5 cloves of the garlic confit and a little kosher salt.  At the last possible moment add in 1 large Tablespoon of tarragon (leaves only). Set aside. 

Hard sear the steak over high heat (remember to generously salt and lightly pepper the outside of the steak) to get its outsides a bit crunchy. Finish the steaks to desired doneness, plate them, and then pour the mushrooms/tarragon/garlic confit over them.

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French foods from Occitane, and Italian foods throughout the peninsula, have dishes featuring mushrooms and herbs, and often named after hunters. It's a lovely thought that those who secure tonight's protein would collect perfect mushrooms and herbs on their way home. 

French foods from Occitane, and Italian foods throughout the peninsula, have dishes featuring mushrooms and herbs, and often named after hunters. It's a lovely thought that those who secure tonight's protein would collect perfect mushrooms and herbs on their way home. 

You may have seen me cooking this mushrooms in a recent EuroCAST Instagram post. If you didn't see that ... get onto our Instagram feed! Pronto! Because delicious-looking food should be presented on your mobile devices and computer screens more often than once a week. 

You may have seen me cooking this mushrooms in a recent EuroCAST Instagram post. If you didn't see that ... get onto our Instagram feed! Pronto! Because delicious-looking food should be presented on your mobile devices and computer screens more often than once a week. 

A most irresistible salad

White bean salad WITH GARLIC CONFIT AND RED PEPPER FLAKES

The large cannellini beans are quite fibrous and require a little nudging to get to where you want them to go. But it is so worth the effort.  Have the garlic confit (see below) on hand.

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Starting with best quality canned cannellini beans, you are building a salad with a bit of magic from the reduced balsamic vinegar, onions, garlic confit, and red pepper flakes. Make this salad first so that you can let it sit at room temperature in all those yummy oils and herbs to blend.

And if you time it right, when everything is ready to head out to the table, you'll have a moment for one last taste. Or two. Or three. You know how that works. 

Ingredients

  • 2 cans drained white beans in a medium bowl
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup finely diced flat leaf parsley
  • 6-8 cloves of the garlic confit and 7 T. of the garlic oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes 

Procedure

  1. Take half of the thinly sliced red onion slices, dice them, and add to beans. 
  2. Sauté the other red onion slices in 2T. olive oil until they begin to soften
  3. Add 1/4 cup good quality balsamic vinegar
  4. Cook over medium-low heat until the balsamic vinegar has been almost reduced by half
  5. Remove the pan from heat and add its contents to beans
  6. Add garlic cloves, parsley, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
  7. Stir gently to combine.

Taste. Adjust seasoning.

And ... Set aside. That last part is important -- in setting this bean salad aside, the flavors blend beautifully. And by setting it aside, I am saving you from sampling too much of this obsession-inducing dish. It's embarrassing to bring an empty serving dish to the table. 

Garlic confit: Versatile, easy, delicious

Confit comes from French. It sounds fancy, but it just means preserved (usually by slow cooking in fat or oil), and is one of the oldest ways to preserve food safely. The French have been known to confit a duck and bury it in the yard for three months -- which is hardly fancy, but it works, and the French take pride in these kinds of things. 

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Garlic confit is really simple.

Separate heads into cloves, making sure all paper is removed. Put into good olive oil over low heat and cook through -- slowly. Slow is key. The oil should never get really hot, because you're poaching the garlic, not simmering it, and definitely not browning or frying it. It can take up to an hour, so be patient. 

The payoff is that you get the poached garlic cloves and an extraordinary garlic oil, and you can use some of that (or all of it) right away. To store for future recipes, put into a jar with a tight-fitting lid and make sure the garlic is completely covered in oil. It can store in the fridge for weeks and in the freezer for a few months. 

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The focaccia in this meal doesn't have to be hard -- or even focaccia

Everyone who knows me knows that I'm not afraid to whip up some delicious bread at the drop of a chef's toque (or, let's be real, a baseball cap used to control sun and hair). And focaccia is not hard. 

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But the flavor explosion from this part of the menu comes from combining cheese, fruit, herbs, and garlic confit (which has become the star of our weekly recipe, in case you hadn't noticed).

So if you're comfortable with making your own focaccia, go for it -- or pick up some pre-made pizza dough at your favorite grocery store (in the refrigerator or freezer aisles). 

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Focaccia

Although I'm suggesting this bread to go along with the bean salad and steak, keep this recipe handy whenever you need something for an appetizer or snack.

Here’s what’s fun about this treat: it can be as simple as bread topped with kosher salt and freshly chopped rosemary and then dunked in great olive oil. Or -- and here’s where you can whip out your party hat -- this recipe is a wonderful raft for all sorts of combinations. 

For instance, pictured here: 

  • Fresh thinly sliced pears 
  • Those naughty balsamic onions you made above
  • A few of the cloves of garlic from the confit -- that you also made above
  • A few tablespoons of strategically situated St. Agur blue cheese

Here are a few more combinations to mix and match. 

  1. Prosciutto, sliced persimmon, and pecorino cheese 
  2. Poke in lots of cloves of that magical garlic and then nestle in sliced buratta cheese, fresh thyme and black pepper 
  3. Roasted cherry tomatoes, a few tablespoons of goat cheese and a drizzle or two of excellent quality balsamic 
  4. Pepperoni, garlic confit, black olives, fresh oregano and dollops of whipped ricotta

Use your mind for more combinations, and then lose your mind eating them all.

Foccaccia -- and dinner -- should be that good. 

Dutch oven

7 quarts. The right size for stews, cassoulet (another white bean specialty), or even the mushrooms you cook in this recipe. Save $80. 

Paul Ward1 Comment