Confit: a dish d’Artagnan* might have loved

Plated chicken confit

In the southwestern French province of Gascony, the technique of preserving meat cooked in its own fat is called confit. It offers a delicious, quickly-served dish months after the initial preparation. At Republic, we use locally-raised chicken as a stand-in for the original duck or goose, and add our own spice mixture to bring exotic Mediterranean flavors to the dish. The way we make it, it flies right out the door.

  • Meat: Start with locally-raised, non-caged meats (duck, goose, chicken, or pork) because they taste better and are better for you.
  • Confit spice: a mix of salt, pepper, and multiple other ingredients (our secret recipe is below).
  • Fat: Duck confit calls for lots of duck fat. We use olive oil in our chicken confit, but we save and reuse it, made richer by the saved fat and spiced pan drippings. The fifth version? Magnifique!
  • Technique: After you cook the meat slowly, in oil, let it cool, then refrigerate. Heat it the next day in a cast-iron skillet until the skin is brown and crispy (you can also take it off the bone for and freeze it for later use on salads or pizzas). Then pop the skillet in a 400-degree oven for 10 minutes.

* — The famous fourth musketeer, a native of Gascony is a character in Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers.

  • Many thanks to our recipe testers, who made confit in their own kitchens and shared their thoughts and challenges below! Sign up to be a recipe tester yourself.
  • June Trisciani
  • Jeff Binder

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Chicken Confit
INGREDIENTS:

  • 3-4 chicken legs with thighs attached
  • Confit spice (see below)
  • 3 cups olive oil

Confit spice blend*

  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • ½ cup black pepper
  • 1 TBSP cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground clove
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp Allspice

* This is enough for 4 recipes. Store it in a clean glass jar with a lid at room temperature for next time.

PROCEDURE:
DAY 1
1. Wash the chicken and dry it carefully with paper towel

2. Rub each piece liberally with a small portion of the spice blend over a bowl

Chicken confit in baking dish

3. Put each piece, skin side up, in a 12” diameter cast iron or Le Creuset pot with a lid (or any baking dish that will accommodate all of the chicken packed snugly in 1 layer. Cover the chicken with plastic wrap and add weight (bricks covered in foil, large tomato cans, or a container with heavy books or stones).

Chicken confit realizing that bricks are heavy

4. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours; overnight is ideal.

DAY 2
5. Remove the baking dish from the refrigerator and let the chicken rise to room temperature. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

6. Add enough oil to the pan to cover the legs (about 3 cups in a 12” diameter 3.6 quart Le Creuset or Cuisinart).

Chicken confit in oil

7. Cover the pan tightly with foil or lid and bake at 250 degrees for 2 ½ hours.

Chicken confit baking in oven

8. You will know the chicken is done when the skin pulls away from the knob at the tip of the leg and the oil is slowly bubbling. Gently remove the legs (as the meat may come away), and place on a cookie sheet to cool, then refrigerate. After the oil has cooled, transfer it to a separate container with a lid and refrigerate.

Chicken confit cooling down

DAY 3
9. When you are ready to dine, heat some of the oil in a skillet at high heat (you want plenty of oil and a HOT pan so the skin doesn’t stick to the pan). Place the chicken skin-side down and press it down with a spatula (or more weight; see June’s comment below). Let the skin darken and the fat render: about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the skillet into a 450 degree preheated oven for 10 minutes. A firm, confident shove with a metal spatula beneath the bird will ensure that the skin comes away with the meat.

Here, at Republic, it’s served resting between potato spears and sautéed haricots vertes. Add a little butter to the skillet with some chicken stock, salt and pepper and finely minced herbes fines (parsley, chives, chervil, tarragon, and thyme). Place the haricot vertes over the chicken, and pour the pan sauce over all. The herbes fines complement the confit beautifully, both in presentation and in flavor.

A tidbit to share with your dinner guests:
For the French, only duck and goose confits are true confits; other meats poached in duck or goose fat are considered en confit (in confit). Goose confit is associated with the Basque region (next door to Gascony) in the classic cassoulet, a hearty dish of confit and beans.

Chef’s tip:
If you are having problems with the skin sticking to the pan (remember, a HOT pan and plenty of oil), you may want to put the chicken skin side up under the broiler instead, then move it to a lower oven shelf in the 450 degree oven.

June’s comments
Followed this exactly and it worked very well. Using a cast iron skillet for the final step transfers a more even heat to the meat, and you can pop the whole pan into a hot oven. I coated the bottom of the skillet with oil (maybe 1/8-1/4”) and got it fairly hot. I could only sear 2 pieces at a time due to the size of my skillet. I also threw a piece of granite on them to weight them down in the pan and ensure greater surface area for the sear. Four minutes is just a guideline, look for a crispy rendered skin.

Jeff’s comments
When you save the oil, it will separate into 3 layers in the refrigerator. From top to bottom, they are olive oil, chicken fat, and dark pan renderings in gelatin. Don’t strain this—use all of it for your next recipe, and continue using it; it just brings more flavor with every use (just be sure to refrigerate it between confits!). I’ve also tried a different spice mix, using Syrian or Jordanian Z’atar (wild mountain thyme and rosemary herb mixes) as the accent in the original salt/pepper seasoning.

Photo credits: June Trisciani
Video credits: Jeff Binder, Ed Aloise

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