I had never tasted chicken confit until a birthday dinner date at a little French bistro in Northeast Portland. Needless to say, my brain melted. I immediately began lobbying for an internship in that same kitchen. That summer, I got my foot in the door, and I came away with another notebook of wonderful recipes and a new appreciation for all things deliciously bitter. This recipe, however, is all about the slow-cooked, fatty goodness that generally comes to mind when one thinks of French cuisine.
Adapted from memory via Cocotte Bar & Bistro
2 chicken legs and thighs, bones in, skin on
1/8 cup granulated sugar
1/8 cup brown sugar
1/8 cup salt
1/4 teaspoon whole dried fennel seed
1/4 teaspoon whole dried mustard seed
2 whole dried allspice berries
5 black peppercorns
Half a bay leaf
Half a cinnamon stick
1 sprig fresh thyme
1-2 cups neutral oil, preferably a blend of canola and olive
Boning, paring, or chef knife
Small baking dish
Small mixing bowl
Tongs or fish spatula
Chinois or fine mesh strainer
I’m not about to get into the to-wash-or-not-to-wash your chicken debate, but I will say that I do not bother with it. Do as you please, though!
I like to buy whole chickens, use the breasts for main courses, the wings for snacks, the carcass for stock, and, since my time working in the kitchen at Cocotte, I almost always confit the legs.
Preheat your oven to 250°F.
Take a sharp knife and cut through the skin, ligaments, and what have you right above the ankle joint. This cut is essential because it will let the oil seep in and break down all of the connective tissue at that joint, resulting in tender instead of chewy bites. Trust me, you do not have to french the bone! Now, place the whole legs and thighs in your baking dish.
Mix the sugars and salt in a separate little bowl, then massage into the chicken legs, top and bottom. Sprinkle on the whole spices, half bay leaf, half cinnamon stick, and thyme sprig. Let sit at room temperature for at least an hour to cure.
Add oil to the chicken, just enough to cover the bones but leave some of the skin and meat above the surface. Bake in a 250°F oven for 1-2 hours, until the meat falls off the bone and the skin is golden brown and crispy. If your oil begins to boil, turn the heat down to 200°F for the remaining time.
Let the chicken cool in the oil for about 20 minutes, then remove with tongs or a fish spatula. Twist out the tibia (leg bone) and femur (thigh bone), then use your fingers to pull out the knee joint. There is also a little skinny bone next to the tibia that needs to be removed. Now you have a beautiful, boneless, crispy-skinned piece of chicken that is best balanced with a nice salad with a sharp vinaigrette.
Let the oil cool completely, then strain and save in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. You can repeatedly use it for confit, or just to fry even more delicious eggs, potatoes, brussel sprouts, or whatever you desire.