Back In Black! (Con)fit to be tied!!

Posted in confit, erin franzman, procrastinate, recipe, seattle, the stranger, tomato, Uncategorized on May 19th, 2012 by Babs

I’ve decided to have new business cards made with the tagline “putting the ‘pro’ into ‘procrastinator.’”

Hell, I’ve been meaning to update this site for a year. But now the mercurial Seattle spring weather is warping my mind and causing neurons to fire in some amusing ways – so fasten your seatbelts and prepare for re-lift-off!

If anyone in my life is familiar with my tendency to wait until the last possible minute to do something, it would be the brave souls who have functioned as my editors over the years. I’m not joking when I say that the Portland Tribune probably allowed me to live part-time in Australia because I was 17-19 hours ahead of them (and, therefore, my deadlines…)

I’ve been fortunate enough to encounter a wealth of wonderful people who have given me the chance to express myself and who have made me a better writer, thinker and human being. One of my favorites is the incredible Erin Franzman.

As previously mentioned, sometimes the universe works in mysterious ways – dropping awesome people into your life in unexpected circumstances. When Erin moved to Seattle, she was my new editor at The Stranger. Call me crazy, but I kinda like knowing the people I’m writing for – so we made a plan to hang out and a lifetime friendship was formed. Our cats were sisters. We embarked on a hilarious odyssey of seeing random shows (ask either of us about Stumblebum sometime – just please don’t ask me to recreate their weird line dance because it still gives me nightmares…) I took her out to a birthday dinner during her (sadly) short tenure here and she returned the favor by flying out for my 40th birthday. She also allowed me the supreme honor of signing her marriage certificate. She’s one of the smartest, most amazing people I’ve ever had the pleasure of encountering – and an expert on so many topics that it never ceases to amaze me. One of those happens to be food.

I had the pleasure of hanging out with Erin and her husband Andy on a rare visit to Seattle at the end of last year, and indulged in awesome company, food, conversation and general all-around awesomeness. (Did I mention that it was awesome?) I’m currently plotting a visit to NYC because I’m already jonesing for a repeat encounter. In an era when ignorance gets held up like a badge (I originally referenced Herman Cain here, if that gives you any indication of how long this post has languished here waiting to be posted) Erin is a thousand points of light. In a good way.

She’s a wonderful human being, a lover of great food and a fellow misanthrope. What’s not to love?!?!

So without further adieu, here she is!

Tomato Confit

Julia Child was too nice for me: I’ve always been drawn to the badass side of cooking. I admit that sometimes I cook out of love, or for those that I love — I do enjoy cooking, and I do it regularly. But mostly, I cook from a place of white-hot burning rage at the world. I use a 12-inch knife, because SIZE DOES MATTER, and when I cook dinner on an average Tuesday night, I’m basically butchering every single person who annoyed me at work, on my way to or from work, over email, on Twitter and Facebook, or on TV that day. Cross me, and I’ll be thinking about how I could kill you and cook your bones for soup. I can get pretty cranky.

But by the time I’m done and dinner’s on the table, I feel fine.

Cooking calms me. I do everything by instinct – no recipes, very little measuring. I try to make things taste like the best version of themselves – the porkiest pork, the eggplantiest eggplant.

One of my favorite flavors is tomato. The annoying thing about tomatoes is that they’re fussy little fruits that’re only really in season from July to September. However, that July-September tomato flavor is basically one of the best things in the world. And it turns out you can coax that flavor out of the little buggers the rest of the year if you confit them. Yeah that’s right, I use “confit” as a verb. Get on it!

What can you do with a tomato confit? Fuck, anything! Spread it on bread. Toss it with pasta. Make it a sauce for basically any protein. Use it as a sandwich condiment. Put it in a taco. Put it over vegetables. Serve it with eggs. It works as a dressing for rice, couscous, faro, polenta, quinoa and any other obscure grain you’re into. You can tart it up with any kind of herb, or chili, or cheese, and it’s still gonna be awesome. It’s one of those super-versatile dishes that’s basically no effort and will have everyone licking the bowl.

So: First, go buy some tomatoes. Fresh, not canned.

If you’re buying plum tomatoes, you want about 6. If you’re buying normal, round supermarket tomatoes, you can get 4-5. If you’re buying fancypants hothouse tomatoes, or heirloom tomatoes: don’t.

They’re not worth it for this recipe.

This recipe calls for crap, off-season tomatoes.

Okay, so back to the tomatoes. Buy the reddest ones on the pile. It’s fine if they’re a little busted; they just need to be the deepest red of all the tomatoes the store is offering.

You also need to buy a clove of garlic. Buy the whitest, tightest clove you can. Once the papery skin of the garlic turns gray and peels off, your garlic is getting gummy. You don’t want gummy garlic – that shit is nasty.

The only other things you need for this recipe are olive oil, salt and pepper. If you want to add basil, or oregano, or thyme, or hot peppers, I can’t stop you, and your tomato confit will still be fucking delicious. You can’t mess this up.

So now you’re home and you’re ready to confit. Cut up the tomatoes into quarters (for the plum tomatoes) or eighths (those big round supermarket tomatoes) – no need to be precious about it. We’re going to cook the shit out of these until the shape is unrecognizable.

Now break off 4 cloves of garlic. If you looove garlic, make it six. If any of the 4 cloves is puny and pathetic, make it five. Take the flat part of your palm and gently press down on each clove until it flattens – that makes the papery skin easy to peel off, which you will do now.

Once your garlic is all peeled, take a look at it. Is each clove smashed so you can see its inside? You have a choice now. You can mince this garlic, if you are a person who likes mincing, or a person with impeccable, Top-Chef-Challenge-level knife skills, or a perfectionist, or have OCD.

Or you can just smash it up a bunch more, with either the flat of your hand or the flat of your knife or the bottom of a frying pan.*

*As badass as it is to bang shit with the bottom of a frying pan, I have done it after a particularly bad day and I can tell you, shit will fly out all over if you’re not careful. Like, for example, if you’re cooking to relax but really you’re still thinking about how that dumbass from marketing sent you that email asking you to do his work for him, without even looking at his OWN FUCKING WEBSITE first to see that he could easily get it himself and also how UM YOU DO NOT WORK FOR HIM and why is it his first instinct to ask you for something instead of just trying to GO GET IT HIMSELF because maybe his mommy left him with a boatload of entitlement issues and how does he even get DRESSED IN THE MORNING without a fucking detailed list of instructions? At this point you may want to return to your giant chef’s knife, because that asshole deserves the sharp edge!

So now you’re going to preheat the oven to 350 and glug some olive oil into a baking dish. This baking dish should be at least an inch deep (so like, not a cookie sheet) but if you don’t have one, use an oven-safe frying pan (aka, anything without a plastic handle) or, in a pinch, McGyver yourself a vessel from tin foil by folding up the sides about two inches and crimping the foil to create an edge. You want enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the dish.

Plop in the garlic and tomatoes.

Pour two-three more glugs of olive over everything.

Add about three pinches of salt and a thin dusting of pepper – doesn’t matter how much you put in now, cause you’re going to add more after you roast.

Now you wanna roast that for 40-50 minutes. Anytime after the 30-minute mark, you can pull the tomatoes out for a second and use the back of a spoon to gently smoosh the tomato chunks. They should yield to the touch of the spoon. When they’re fully done, the most gorgeous, peachy-pink tomato water will ooze out and mix with the unctuous, shimmering golden olive oil and soft garlic and the smell – sweet Jesus, the smell will knock you on your ass. Take a little taste, and then add salt and pepper until you’re happy.

This recipe makes enough tomato confit to mix with one box of pasta, and will comfortably keep in a covered container in your fridge for up to 5 days.