This is what happens when you have oodles and oodles of fantastic lard to play with… I have always loved duck confit — rich, salty and tender legs/thighs of duck that have been seasoned with salt and slow poached in duck or goose fat. They are the ultimate gourmet “fast food” in that you just pop them out of the can or bottle (carefully, lest you dismember the pieces) into a hot cast iron pan and let its skin brown beautifully to a crisp, and enjoy with some baked potatoes or shredded over a salad, added into a cassoulet, etc. A couple of weeks ago, I decided to try my hand at making confit of chicken, knowing full well that chicken is nowhere near as rich as duck, but what was there to lose in trying? :)
I took several large meaty leg quarters from the grocery (actually imported, on sale for less than local chickens, but my attraction to them was the size) and generously seasoned them with salt, cracked and whole black peppercorns, bay leaves, thyme and let this marinate in the fridge overnight. For 8 large leg quarters, use roughly 2-3 tablespoons of salt. Yes, it’s a lot, but my first batch was bland, and I realize the chicken needs a lot of salt to achieve a similar result to duck confit. The next day, wipe off the salty marinade and place the leg quarters in a wide palayok or clay cooking vessel. Add the bay leaves. Cover the chicken quarters with top quality lard (or use duck fat if you have it) and place this over a charcoal fire until it just begins to gurgle. You don’t want this to boil, just simmer or gurgle ever so slightly. Manage your coals closely, as the heat can be tricky. Cover and let this cook for say 3-4 hours until the meat is just incredibly tender and succulent. Remove from the fire and you can immediately serve this up by first pan-frying each piece of chicken until golden brown. Or you can cool this down, and store in the fridge for a few days before using. You could also freeze them for weeks or months, I suppose.
The results? FABULOUS. Not as rich as duck, but pleasantly salty, wonderfully melt-in-your mouth tender, and surprisingly not very “oily” at all. The crisped skin was almost as good as pork cracklings, and overall, a terrific flavor experience for the effort expended. Will definitely have to think of a way to introduce this at the restaurants in a couple of months… :)
P.S. If you want to do this at home, you can do it in an oven instead of over coals. But you will still need a lot of lard or duck/goose fat. I have seen recipes making this with olive oil, so I suspect there are many ways to do this dish with good results…