Lately, excuses pop up everywhere in my life. I’m guilty of being unproductive and touching a chopping board again feels almost excessive, let alone waiting for chicken thighs (which I love buying here, being on exchange in the U.S., since they are under- appreciated) to cook through. Imagine dealing with the stress that the skin is not crisping up, or that packing it for lunch will be a foul affair marred by excess chicken fat. (If only chicken fat renders itself as schmaltz as you wait 25 minutes for the searing to be done.)
I am still exploring ways of treating the dark meat of chicken. Chicken breast, however less flavorful, is easier. Its lack of finesse also means it presents flavors more straightforwardly and cooking time can be slashed with a few incisions made down the middle to “flatten” the meat. Thus, in lieu of the more time-consuming methods of stewing or braising, I thought confit would be the best – minus the curing stage. It does help a little but I wouldn’t deem it necessary.
Confit, meaning prepared in French, involves cooking something in its own fat, as a crude (I think any time before modern sewers or showers is really uncivilized and I give thanks for my nice living conditions…) form of preservation without refrigeration. My fellow Singaporeans would be all too used to seeing it, thanks to Bistro Du Vin and Saveur, but in case you’re curious, confit is not deep-frying but its long and slow cooking style, where the meat is entirely steeped in oil, imbues a surface that calls for only 15 minutes for crisping up throughout – it’s better than deep frying! No batter. No crazy waste of oil. Only tradeoff for those slippery slivers of meat in a blistered coppery armor is that the meat does lose its succulence.
Well, you can’t always have your cake and eat it, right? Take your pick and let live, I say.
By the way, in taking a few more risky shots, I decided to let the chicken thighs render its fat and to cook in them. Instead of steeping them in oil, I replace it with about half a cup of water to prevent it from drying out. Every time it comes out of the oven after 6 hours, a THICK layer of oil emerges without fail and the results are remarkably similar to a confit, although the skin is a little less pristine.
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- Ground black pepper
- Large handful of kosher salt
- 2 extra large chicken thighs, skin on (the more you use, the less oil you can use)
- 500 ml oil (olive oil or canola will do. The more adventurous can use chicken fat, if they can find it, that is)
- 2 bay leaves
- 5 cloves of garlic, skin on
This is what happens when the oil doesn’t cover enough of the chicken. Not that I mind, since the skin is not compromised eventually.
- Preheat oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit or 110 degrees Celcius.
- Mix the seasoning – basil, black pepper and salt.
- Rub the seasoning mixture onto the chicken thighs, taking note to reach into the flesh under the skin as well.
- Pack the thighs into an oven-friendly pan or a Dutch-oven, taking care to pack them as flat as possible if using only 2 thighs, If you’re using more, take care to pack them as closely as possible. The aim is to make them as flat as possible so that the layer of oil can cover them entirely.
- Pour the oil into the pan, taking care to let the oil totally cover the chicken. Try to push or repack the chicken if necessary.
- Add the bay leaves and garlic into the chicken and oil mixture.
- Cook for 6 hours in the oven until the meat becomes tender and the cartilage is soft. If you prefer a speedier option, turn heat up to 250 degrees Fahrenheit or 130 degrees Celcius and cook for 2 to 3 hours.
- Once the time is up, remove pan from oven and let sit for 15 mins to cool a little.
- Remove the chicken onto a plate and reserve the oil by straining through a sieve, taking note to not include the liquid/jus at the bottom of the pan. This oil can, and should be used for future confits as the flavor is built after each use. The liquid is flavorful and can be used as a stock, after straining.
- To finish the chicken, add a teaspoon of oil or butter onto a medium-hot pan and add chicken. Whichever side it is on, there would be intense browning and crisping after 5 mins. Take care to brown each side evenly.
- Serve with mashed potato or beans, as shown in picture.