Classic duck confit is a true labour of love. There is salting and curing, an overnight rest, a ton of store-bought duck fat (assuming you don’t have some lying around) and an eternity spent in an oven.
Of course, to all of this I say “Yum!” But also: “What if I ... didn’t?”
I know the “correct” way to do most things in the kitchen. I know to soak beans overnight so they cook evenly and the skins don’t split; I can make a classic buttercream so stable you could caulk a tub with it. And yet I mostly choose to ignore the “correct” way in favour of a “faster” or “more convenient” way. I realise I’m sacrificing history and tradition — but what I get in return is dinner that night.
So here I offer you chicken confit-ish. As you may have guessed by the name, the bird in question is chicken, not duck. But we’ll still use legs (or legs and thighs) and, not to worry, we’ll still cook it relatively low and slow in plenty of fat (but make it olive oil). I promise you extremely tender meat and an abundance of leftover schmaltzy liquid in the baking dish, a concoction so good you might swear off plain olive oil forever. (More on that later.)
I am not one to waste the chance to cook other ingredients in chicken fat, and so I love throwing other vegetables into the dish to sizzle and caramelise alongside the legs. Springy carrots, garlic and thinly sliced lemon are excellent because they also flavour the oil. (Again, we are going to save all that oil.)
The beauty of this confit-ish shortcut is its simplicity. But if you’re looking for ultrabrowned, crisp-skinned chicken, you can remove the almost-fall-apart-tender cooked legs and give them a quick sear in a skillet. This step is not mandatory, but overachievers should feel free to do it.
As for the leftover oil I won’t stop talking about, it’s maybe the best reason to make this recipe. Once the chicken, carrots and lemons are long gone, you’ll be left with a dish full of salty, lemony, garlicky, chickeny fat that should be put to use as often as you can. Fry your eggs in it. Roast your vegetables in it. Cook more chicken in it. I don’t want to overwhelm you, but I also recommend using it to make breadcrumbs, croutons or toast. Once you do that, you might pass out from the deliciousness.
While it might not be authentic, this dish delivers everything good about traditional confit, along with a few bonus items. And at the end of the day, I’m just trying to eat sooner. Surely you can relate.
Olive oil-roasted chicken with caramelised carrots
Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
1kg whole chicken legs, or bone-in, skin-on drumsticks or thighs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch small, thin carrots, preferably with their green tops
2 heads garlic, left unpeeled and halved crosswise to expose the cloves
1 lemon, thinly sliced, seeds removed
1/2 bunch oregano, plus more leaves for garnish
1 cup olive oil
1. Heat oven to 176 degrees Celsius. Season chicken with salt and pepper.
2. If the carrots have their green tops, trim the tops so that the stems are about 1/2- to 1-inch long. Save the greens for garnish or for using in salsa verde or pesto (they can be treated like parsley).
3. Arrange chicken in a large shallow baking dish or shallow braising pot so that the legs are snug and lying flat. Scatter garlic head halves, carrots, lemon slices and oregano sprigs among the chicken pieces, nestling everything in there. (It’s OK if the carrots stick out a bit.) Pour the olive oil over the chicken and vegetables. (Yes, you’re using all that oil! Don’t worry, it can be repurposed; see note below.) Season again with salt and pepper.
4. Place in the oven, uncovered, and roast until the chicken is so tender it nearly falls off the bone and the carrots and lemons are nicely caramelised, 55 to 65 minutes.
5. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Divide chicken, vegetables and lemons among plates (or serve straight from the dish it was cooked in) and scatter with carrot tops, if you have them, and more oregano before eating. (Reserve the leftover schmaltzy olive oil in the baking dish for another purpose.)
Note: The schmaltzy olive oil can be strained and stored in an airtight container, and refrigerated for up to 1 month. Use it to fry eggs, roast vegetables, cook more chicken, smear on toast or make breadcrumbs.