Sunday, February 9, 2014

Chicken Confit

Confit (pronounced "con-fee") is a cooking method where you submerge something in oil or a simple syrup and it is historically it is one of the best ways to preserve meats. Most of you have at least heard of the classic French dish, duck confit, where a duck leg is submerged in it's own rendered fat and then cooked low and slow until it is fall-off-the-bone tender. 

Recently, I made an American version of a French classic: Chicken Confit. I used rendered duck fact in this recipe (it runs about $8-10 a pint at fancy grocery stores) but you can substitute olive oil if you would prefer it. Also, traditional confits starts with a 24 hour dry-brine process that was necessary historically because it aided in the meat preservation and nowadays it's more of a flavor-adding step than anything else. It draws the moisture from the meat, tenderizes it, and boosts flavor. If you are in a hurry - you can skip this step completely - and still end up with some seriously delicious chicken. 

For ease, I've cut out the dry-brine step from this recipe to make things simpler. For those of you that would like to try that method, just rub legs very generously with lots of kosher salt - you can add crushed bay leaves, allspice, and pepper into the mix too and then cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge for 24 hours. Before cooking, rinse thighs very well with water to remove all of the salt and spices. Then you can start with my recipe below. 

Rendered Duck Fat 
Chicken Legs (bone-in and skin-on)
Rosemary Sprigs
Fresh Sage
Bay Leaf
4 cloves Garlic
Dried Chile Pepper

1. Season your Chicken Leg(s) with kosher salt and pepper. heat oil in a skillet and brown the legs on all sides. 
2. Remove from skillet and add to saucepan. Cover with duck fat - enough to submerge chicken and add Rosemary, Sage, Peppercorns, Bay Leaf, Garlic, and Chile Pepper. Bring to up to almost boiling.

3. Place in oven uncovered at 200 degree oven for 3-4 hours (or 300 degrees for 2 hours if you are in a major hurry) until fatty skin of the chicken is translucent and meat is fall-off-the-bone-tender. Remove the chicken legs from the duck fat and pat dry. 
4. Reserve a couple Tbsp of duck fat and add to sauté pan. Brown thighs in fat to crisp up the skin before serving. I recommend serving with a big arugula salad and duck-fat roasted fingerling potatoes. 

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