When it’s time to make dinner, I enjoy the conceptualizing, I love the cooking and, when I have time, I luxuriate in the chopping and knife work as a slow, pleasant meditation. And then there are those nights when making dinner seems almost impossible, not because the recipe itself is difficult or the ingredients challenging to source, but because time is short and the prep work seems insurmountable.

That’s where mushroom confit comes into play. With a little bit of weekend work, the jar sits in the refrigerator, ready for recipe inspiration all week long. Use the preserved mushrooms for quick pasta sauces or pizza toppings, or tuck them under the skin of a chicken for pan roasting. Meaty and satisfying, the mushrooms are waiting to be dashed across a puff pastry tart, studded through bread pudding, rolled up in a taco or spooned into an omelet. Mushroom confit is a great place to start almost anything in the kitchen.

“Confit” derives from the French verb for “preserve,” and as a DIY technique it refers to a slow, low poach in fat or oil (or sugar syrup, in the case of fruits). It takes time and some management. A confit should never get hotter than 200 degrees or you risk its becoming a deep-fry. Confits have no crispy edges; they are soft and gentle. Confit techniques may be applied to all sorts of foods, from garlic cloves to duck legs, sweet onions to pork rillettes.

Don’t underestimate how the process changes the texture of food or how the flavor intensifies. The oil softens the structure, but somehow the food is neither oily nor mushy, but velvety and rich. The umami factor is amplified, especially as the confit ages.

Total submersion is the key to maintaining preservation. As long as the food is completely covered by the liquid, it will keep for quite some time.

As a starter project, mushroom confit is ready to eat immediately and keeps for two weeks in the refrigerator.

A few quick minutes of preparation is all it takes to confit a mess of mushrooms. If they are beautiful fungi, the caps unblemished, confit them whole. If they are a little worse for wear, not so beautiful, or the mundane but delicious cremini or button mushrooms, a few quick pulses in the food processor will do a perfect rough chop for a heavenly mushroom concoction that confits quickly, leaving it ready to spoon over toast, stir through a quinoa risotto or stuff inside ravioli.

MUSHROOM CONFIT

Here you poach the fungi delicately in a lightly flavored olive oil, making the most of your kitchen prep time by preserving a mess of mushrooms all at once.

You’ll need a clean glass pint jar and an instant-read thermometer.

A mix of mushrooms works as well as a single batch of cremini or button mushrooms. Keep the mushrooms entirely submerged in oil, and use them one at a time or all at once; when they’re all gone, keep the oil, which is good for sautes. Both the mushrooms and oil, refrigerated in an airtight container, will keep for 2 weeks.

Makes 1 pint

1-1/2 pounds mushrooms

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 to 1 cup neutral olive oil or grapeseed oil, or more as needed

2 tablespoons minced shallot

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

Clean the mushrooms by wiping them with a damp paper towel. If the stem is edible, simply trim the ends; otherwise, separate the caps from the stems. Reserve the stems to make a mushroom broth or discard.

If the caps are unblemished and beautiful, plan to confit them whole; otherwise, cut the caps into 1/2-inch dice.

Place the mushrooms gill sides up on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with the salt. Set aside to dry-brine for 30 minutes. (If diced, sprinkle with the salt and skip the 30-minute rest.)

Heat 1/2 inch of the oil in a straight-sided, heavy skillet large enough to hold the mushrooms in a single layer, over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the shallot; cook for several minutes, until translucent. Add the thyme and the mushrooms, gill sides up. Reduce the heat to medium-low; cook for 15 minutes, turning the mushrooms over halfway through.

Add enough oil so the mushrooms are fully submerged; cook gently until the oil registers 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Cool the mushrooms in the oil. Pack the mushrooms in the clean glass jar, gently layering each one in the jar, then covering with oil; continue layering and adding oil until all the mushrooms have been packed in the jar. Run a chopstick or a plastic knife along the inside of the jar to release any air bubbles.

Make sure the mushrooms are completely submerged in the oil, then cover and refrigerate until ready to use (for 2 weeks).

NOTE: To make a mushroom broth, coarsely chop the mushroom stems, then steep them in hot water to cover for 2 hours. Strain through cheesecloth or a coffee filter, and use the resulting intense mushroom broth in soups or sauces. Or simply sip it, garnished with fresh chives.

MUSHROOM CONFIT COMTE TART

This tart is one of the best reasons to keep puff pastry in the freezer at all times. With mushroom confit already in your pantry, the tart can be assembled in minutes.

Makes 4 servings

2 ounces pancetta, cut into small dice (optional)

1 large egg yolk

1 tablespoon water

Flour, for the work surface

One (8-ounce) 9-to-10-inch-square frozen puff pastry sheet, defrosted

2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard

2 tablespoons creme fraiche

3 ounces Comte cheese, grated

1 half-pint Mushroom Confit (see accompanying recipe)

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

If you’re using the pancetta, line a plate with paper towels. Cook the pancetta in a small, dry skillet over medium heat until crisp. Transfer to the paper towel-lined plate.

Whisk the egg yolk and water together in a small bowl. Lightly flour the counter; quickly roll out the puff pastry on the floured surface, just to smooth any folds or cracks. Place on the parchment. Trim off and reserve a 1/2-inch-wide strip from each of the 4 sides.

Brush the top border of the square tart shell with the egg wash, then place 1 strip on each side of the pastry square, on top of the egg wash (to build up the edges). Prick the bottom of the tart shell with a fork. Brush the entire pastry with the egg wash. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove the tart from the oven; reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Stir together the mustard and the creme fraiche in a cup, then use a small offset knife to spread the mixture across the base of the tart. Sprinkle the grated cheese evenly across the mustard mixture, then arrange the confited mushrooms so they cover the cheese. If using, top with the crisped pancetta.

Liberally salt and pepper the entire tart; slip it back into the oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling.

Sprinkle with the parsley before serving.

PAN-ROASTED CHICKEN WITH MUSHROOM CONFIT

Pantry staples, one pan and about an hour are all it takes to make this delicious, fancy recipe. Serve it to dinner party guests or your weeknight family gathering.

Serve on its own, or spoon over rice, noodles, polenta or mashed potatoes. But always serve it with a bright green salad.

Makes 4 servings

2 teaspoons kosher salt

8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs or 4 chicken leg quarters (brined if desired; see headnote)

8 tablespoons Mushroom Confit (made with chopped cremini mushrooms; see accompanying recipe)

1/2 cup flour

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 large yellow onions, cut in half and then into thin half-moons

3 cloves garlic, smashed

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup tomato puree

1 cup homemade or no-salt-added chicken broth

Season the chicken all over with 1 teaspoon of the salt. (Omit this step if the chicken has been brined; see headnote.)

Arrange the chicken pieces skin side up on a rimmed baking sheet. Run two fingers under the skin of each piece to make a pocket; tuck in 1 tablespoon of the mushroom confit for each thigh or 2 tablespoons for each leg quarter. Pat down so the confit is evenly distributed under the skin.

Spread the flour on a plate.

Heat the oil and butter in a large, straight-sided skillet over medium heat. Once the butter is foamy, carefully lift the chicken pieces, taking care not to dislodge the mushrooms, and coat both sides in the flour, shaking off any excess. Discard any remaining flour.

Arrange the chicken pieces in the skillet; cook, undisturbed, for about 6 minutes or until browned, then carefully turn them over and cook for 3 to 4 minutes on the second side. Transfer to a plate. (The chicken will not be cooked through; if your skillet is not large enough to accommodate even browning, work in two batches.)

Pour off about 3 tablespoons of fat from the skillet; there should be about 3 tablespoons of the fat left in the skillet. (If using leg quarters, pour off about 6 tablespoons of fat.) Add the onions and garlic. Stir well to coat, then add the remaining teaspoon of salt, the pepper and the parsley; cook until the onions are translucent and soft, about 6 minutes.

Discard the garlic. Stir in the wine, increase the heat to medium-high; once the mixture comes to a boil, cook for about 5 minutes or until it has reduced by half.

Stir in the tomato puree and broth to form a rich sauce; once it starts to bubble at the edges, return the chicken pieces to the skillet, skin side up, nestling them in the sauce. Reduce the heat to medium-low; cover and cook for about 25 minutes or until the chicken is tender and cooked through.

If the sauce does not seem thick enough to cling to the chicken, remove the chicken pieces, increase the heat to medium or medium-high and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.

Serve hot.

Barrow is the author of “Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving” (W.W. Norton, 2014), recently nominated for an International Association of Culinary Professionals award. She blogs at:

mrswheelbarrow.com