Garlic Confit With Cracked Pepper and Herbs

This is one recipe that I prepare every week (without fail) and use it almost every day. Whole garlic cloves, still in their papery skins, simmer away, at the barest bubble, in extra-virgin olive oil that’s laced with dried red pepper flakes, cracked black peppercorns, fresh basil and crumbled dried Herbs de Provence. If your stove doesn’t have a very low simmer mode, I suggest using a “flame-tamer” to protect the integrity of the oil. You might need to adjust the timing a bit. I use the oil to brush on meat, fish, poultry and vegetables before (and even after) grilling, roasting or pan-searing. I also serve the garlic-scented oil with the tender nuggets of cooked garlic (still in their skins) in small bowls, at the table. We squeeze out the garlic meat onto slices of crusty bread, and drizzle some of the oil on top and finish it off with a light sprinkle of coarse salt.

Special equipment

Ingredients

  • 3 or 4 whole heads garlic, broken into individual cloves but not peeled (remove any excess papery skins)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
  • 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
  • 1 rounded teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (optional)
  • large sprig fresh basil (with stem attached)
  • pinch dried Herbs de Provence, crumbled (optional)

Any time I’ve suggested a tool, a piece of equipment, or a culinary term that’s unfamiliar to you, you can go to Learn to Cook for more information.

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Produce
3 or 4 whole heads garlic, broken into individual cloves but not peeled (remove any excess papery skins)
large sprig fresh basil (with stem attached)

Spices & Baking
1 rounded teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (optional)
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
pinch dried Herbs de Provence, crumbled (optional)

To simmer the garlic cloves

Place them in a 1-1/2 quart heavy-bottomed saucepan and add enough extra-virgin olive oil to cover the cloves by 1 inch. Crack open black peppercorns, using either a mortar and pestle or, lay the peppercorns on a sturdy work surface and cover them with a clean kitchen towel. Give the peppercorns several swift whacks, until most are split open. Add the cracked pepper and dried pepper flakes, if using, to the oil and place the pan over very low heat.

After about 5 minutes, you’ll see the oil begin to bubble. Let the oil and garlic simmer extremely gently for 10 minutes, uncovered. Don’t let the oil simmer too briskly or the garlic might burst and actually jump out of the pan (I once found a few cloves clinging to my kitchen ceiling!) Add the basil sprig and let cook for another 5 minutes (Again, the word “cook” seems too aggressive should only barely move.) Add the Herbs de Provence, if using and remove from the stove.

Variation

Peel the garlic and cut cloves in half before simmering.

To cool and store

Let the garlic confit cool and then remove the basil. After you’ve used what you need for that day, store the rest in the refrigerator, in tightly covered jar, to use throughout the week. For best flavor and ease of use, bring the oil to room temperature, before using.

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