Confit

I told you to save your bacon fat, and you’re doing it.

But this keeps happening.

Okay, so I guess it’s time to talk about confit. Technically, a confit is a meat cooked in its own fat. So you can see the problem with calling a dish “tomato confit.” (Because of how tomatoes don’t contain fat, and so it would be really hard to cook them in it, since there’s none.) Folks have been taking liberties with the term for awhile now. Some purists object. Obviously, I don’t object that much, since for this recipe, I’m going to confit chicken in bacon fat. It’s not quite the same degree of sacrilege as “tomato confit,” but not technically correct either.

The most popular confit by far is duck confit. It’s not only a delicious dish to make just for its flavor — it’s a preservation technique as well. The French developed duck confit because salt-curing, then cooking and storing it in its own fat preserves the meat, at or around refrigeration temps, for several months. In other words, a good store of confited fall ducks could be put up to get those French country folks through the winter in style. It’s also a primary ingredient in the heaviest dish ever created, cassoulet. Moving on.

Cover the bottom of a casserole dish with kosher salt. Add peppercorns, dried whole peppers and fresh thyme. Then pat dry 4 chicken thighs and place them, flesh side down, on the salt mixture.

Cover with more salt, peppercorns and thyme. This is a dry brine. You’re still using salt to draw moisture out of meat, but without the water solution. Wet brining is a subject for another post. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat oven to 225 degrees. Thoroughly rinse salt and spices from thighs, making sure to rinse underneath flaps of skin and in grooves in the meat, then pat dry and set on a paper-towel lined plate. Wash the casserole dish and dry thoroughly.

Melt enough bacon fat to cover the bottom of the dish, add to dish, then top with the chicken thighs, flesh side down.

Add four (new) dried peppers, then add more melted bacon fat. You’ll want to completely cover the thighs. If you don’t have enough, you can use plain olive or vegetable oil. In fact, since you’ve salted the chicken and bacon fat is also salty, you might want to cut the bacon fat with vegetable oil to reduce the saltiness. But if you love pretzels, ham and french fries, you’ll probably be cool with the full-on bacon treatment. Carefully transfer to oven and allow the chicken to poach 4-6 hours, until meltingly tender and cooked all the way through. Remove peppers about halfway through.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan set over medium heat, reduce 1 quart of chicken stock until you have 1 cup. Refrigerate until needed.

This is what 2 quarts reduced to 2 cups (a double batch of what you’ll need to make this recipe) looks like after refrigeration. That’s correct. You will have made chicken jello. We’ll come back to this in a bit.

After 4-6 hours, your confit should look like this. Remove from oven and let cool a few minutes.

Heat a medium saute pan over medium-high heat. Gently remove thighs and place in heated pan, skin side down. Brown.

Turn and brown on flesh side, then transfer to a plate and cover with foil.

Pour off any extra fat in the pan, then return pan to heat and deglaze with 1 cup white wine. Reduce til pan is almost dry.

Grab that chicken reduction and add to pan.

Stir it in until fully incorporated, then remove from heat.

Serve chicken thighs with the sauce, topped with some fresh thyme. Mashed potatoes and tomato salad make nice accompaniments. So it’s not a classic duck confit, but it’s yet another yummy, salty way to use that wonderfully fatty gift-with-purchase that is bacon fat. You’re welcome.

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