With the restaurant menu that changes all the time and small amounts of cooler space that might have 20 different people go in them a day, one of the most important functions of my job is the careful organization of coolers, and proper delegation to employees of what I want done with things in order to minimize waste and maximize the use of meat and vegetables in their prime.
One day I noticed we had a bunch of small bags of vegetables, a few hedgehog mushroom buttons, a couple heads of romanesco, and the last cardoons of the season.
I already had a vegetarian dish on the menu, and wouldn’t need another one for at least a few days, but the vegetables needed to be processed now or they would start to suffer.
I remembered how I used to confit mushrooms and potatoes in olive oil, and I thought I’d do a similar hybrid with classic vegetables a la Grecque. Anything cooked al Grecque (Greek) is going to taste a little pickled, but with this version I cut down the vinegar because I wanted to serve it as an entree. I wanted the little veggies to taste perfectly seasoned, but more like something that’s been marinated as opposed to pickled, just enough vinegar to make them sparkle.
The vegetables did a great job for the weekly vegetable entree along with some cakes made of locally ground Indian corn polenta and feta whipped with lemon. Afterwords we had some left over so we even sold them as a side dish, which I might like even better.
You can use any sort of vegetables for this really, but the best ones for look and texture will be young baby vegetables and mushrooms-they’re more tender and pleasing to eat like this. Tiny vegetables are also cute. For the mushrooms, make sure to use small buttons that hold there shape and don’t need to be caramelized to taste good. Chanterelle and hedgehog mushroom buttons are great candidates. Here’s a few examples of vegetables that would be good in this:
- Young tiny potatoes or fingerling potatoes sliced into coins
- Thumbelina carrots
- Romeo carrots
- Baby artichokes
- Baby turnips
- The smallest chanterelle, hedgehog or other mushroom buttons you can get
- Baby onions
- Baby romanesco halves or quarters
- Roots like salsify, scorzanera or burdock
- Small Brussels sprouts
Vegetable Confit with Hedgehog Mushrooms
Yield: 2.5 quarts or roughly 10 portions
Vegetables and mushrooms
- 1 lb young hedgehog or chanterelle mushrooms
- 2.5 lbs mixed vegetables, trimmed into similar sizes and shapes (the following vegetables are a guide)
- 1/2 lb baby turnips quartered or halved depending on size
- 1/2 lb baby carrots halved
- 1/2 lb cardoons peeled and trimmed into 1 inch diamonds
- 1/2 lb Romanesco trimmed into florets
- 1/2 lb baby fennel, quartered
For the olive oil braise
- 3 cups extra virgin olive oil or smudes virgin sunflower oil
- 1/2 qt dry white wine
- 1/4 cup champagne vinegar
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1/4 cup garlic cloves, lightly crushed
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
For the bouquet garni (tie these ingredients in cheesecloth)
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- Small handful of fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon toasted caraway seed
- 1 tablespoon whole juniper berries
If any of the vegetables are harder than others, like any root vegetables (carrots) blanch them for a few minutes in boiling salted water to soften them, and make sure they cook at the same rate as everything else, then shock in an ice bath and reserve.
In a wide pot with high sides, like a rondeaux or brazier, heat the oil with the garlic until sizzling. Cook on medium-low until the garlic is browned lightly, then discard the garlic and add the vegetables, bouquet, and confit ingredients and bring the mixture to a simmer, covering the top of the vegetables with a cartouche of parchment to ensure even cooking. Simmer gently until all the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes, then cool immediately, transfer to a labeled, dated container and reserve until needed. If you’re worried about the vegetables overcooking, or if you’re mixture boiled a bit hard, put it in an ice bath, or metal bowl over ice to cool.