I’m a sucker for duck confit. It’s one dish I simply cannot resist when I see it on a restaurant menu. I trace my passion for the sumptuous poultry back to a sublime dish at the retro-cool Bix Restaurant in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood. It was back in the gravy days of the late 1990s and a friend and I popped into Bix after work one evening for no reason at all besides the feeling of money burning holes in our pockets, I suppose. The dish I ordered–Duck Confit with Huckleberry Sauce—was so sublime, so perfect, that I can still taste its rich, velvety, falling-off-the-bone meat and tart-sweet, syrupy sauce all these years later. I’ve been dreaming of a recreation ever since.
Back then, I was child-free with a steady job and cheap rent. Frugality was not a top priority in my dining choices. But all these years later, with a hungry toddler, skyrocketing overhead costs and in the midst of global economic disaster, let’s just say, I rarely pop into chi-chi restaurants for a quick $100 weeknight dinner on a whim. If I can find a way to eat well for less, well, I’m all over it. That’s why I was excited when our publisher, Viva Editions, gave me a copy of a little gem of a cookbook they published last year called The Frugal Foodie Cookbook. Flipping through its pages, I was immediately drawn to a recipe for Garlic Chicken Confit.
In many ways, the confit cooking method—wherein meat is cooked, in its own fat, for a long time at low heat—is the epitome of Lazy Gourmet cooking. It turns out seductively delicious meat, bears a fancy French name, and doesn’t take much, if any skill to accomplish. Alas, duck fat and good quality duck legs can be hard to come by. But chicken legs, garlic, and olive oil? Three things I often have in my kitchen, even when I haven’t got a shred of inspiration in my head. The Frugal Foodie puts these three ingredients to good use in a preparation that could not be easier. The best part is that you end up with a whole lot of moist, flavorful, and fancily-named chicken that can be used in numerous impressive dishes. Atop pasta in a mushroom cream sauce; in upscale enchiladas with homemade tomatillo salsa; on panini with goat cheese and chile-orange marmalade; in cassoulet with white beans, garlic sausage, and crunchy breadcrumbs; in a classic frisee salad with bacon, poached egg, and sherry vinaigrette. Or if you’re feeling wistful for those gravy days of old, drizzled with a sweet-tart berry and red wine reduction. But truthfully, I loved it best served plain, hot from the oven, alongside rosemary roasted potatoes and a refreshing green salad with vinaigrette dressing, crunchy pecans, and a crumble of goat cheese.
Leftovers freeze well (store pieces whole, submerged in the cooking fat), so make extra and you’ll have the makings of an impressive meal at the ready the next time you are hungry for a fancy meal but are short on time, inspiration, or disposable income.
- 6 whole chicken leg quarters (or 6 drumsticks and 6 thighs)
- 1 head of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
- Several sprigs of fresh rosemary, thyme or oregano
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- ¼ cup olive oil
- Preheat oven to 225ºF.
- Place the chicken pieces in a single layer in a roasting pan or baking dish large enough to fit them all snugly.
- Place the roasting pan or baking dish on top of a rimmed baking sheet (to catchy any potential overflow of fat or juice).
- Nestle the garlic cloves and herb sprigs among the chicken pieces, season generously with salt and pepper, and drizzle the olive oil over the top.
- Bake in preheated oven for about 75 minutes.
- Raise heat to 350 and bake another 20 to 30 minutes until the chicken is nicely browned.