The chicken for sale at the store is generally from chickens that sat around over-indulging themselves in a confined space and are processed early at about 8 weeks old. Our chickens on the other hand are foragers, they have space to wander freely and have bugs a plenty for which to forage, they also live longer than intensively farmed chickens do. This varied diet gives their meat more flavour and the moving around gives them muscular legs that would put the most avid exercisers to shame. That extra muscle can make their legs tough when cooked so slow cooking methods are king here.
The following recipe is for a chicken confit, it is a traditional French method of cooking and preserving food and comes from the French confire, meaning ‘to preserve’. It refers to anything cooked slowly in liquid. The most well-known confit dishes being of duck and goose.
In order to confit duck, goose or chicken the meat is first cured in salt and then cooked slowly in fat.
Juniper berries have a unique herbaceous almost piney flavour, they’re hard to get in the states so we substituted gin and rosemary. This is totally optional but even if you omit the gin, I’d recommend the rosemary, it imparts a beautiful aroma that will get your taste buds tickled every time you open the fridge during the curing stage.
You need a lot of fat as it is intended to cover the meat completely, the point of this being to keep out the air and therefore preserve the meat for storage. I used a combination of duck and chicken fat because it’s what I had to hand. When you make a stock with chicken, you’ll get a layer of fat that can be used for just this purpose. I have also heard of people using olive oil although that’s not something I have tried myself.
It’s incredibly easy to do, the most labour-intensive part being the bringing together of the salt and spices to cure the meat. After that it’s really just a case of sitting and waiting for the magic to happen. When it’s done you will have a meltingly tender piece of meat with a rich, flavorful and slightly salty flavor.
4 Chicken thighs and drums
6 cloves garlic
6 Tblsp coarse sea salt
1 tsp peppercorns
2 juniper berries OR 1 tsp gin and ½ tsp Rosemary (optional)
2-3 bay leaves (torn up in to small pieces)
1 tsp thyme
33oz of duck fat / chicken fat / goose fat
1. Grind in a pestle and mortar the garlic, salt, peppercorns, thyme and juniper berries. If using gin and Rosemary (or just the Rosemary) add to the ground spices along with the bay leaves.
2. Rub the mixture in to the chicken skin and place in a dish in a single layer.
3. Refrigerate for 24 hours, turn in the salt mixture halfway through.
4. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 300F
5. Rinse the chicken in water to remove excess salt and pat dry
6. Warm up your fat and pour over the chicken which should be in a roasting pan that accommodates them tightly. Put the roasting pan on the hob and get the fat up to a simmer before placing in the preheated oven.
7. Cook for 2 hours until the meat is very tender
At this stage your confit can be added to sterlised jars and stored, make sure the fat covers the meat to prevent any air getting in. Seal and store in the fridge. It'll keep for 3 months in the fridge as long as you have the fat covering the meat and a good seal. You can also store for longer in the freezer.
When you are ready to eat, preheat the oven to 425F. Scrape the fat from the chicken and roast in the hot oven for 20 mins, drain off any excess fat as cooking and turn halfway through. Cook until golden with crispy skin.
Don’t waste the fat! Use it to roast up some yummy potatoes to serve with the confit…