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Eric Akis: Chicken substitutes for duck in this tender French-style confit

Duck confit technique also works very well with plump chicken legs
In this chicken confit, chicken legs are slowly cooked in oil then roasted in a hot oven until golden. ERIC AKIS

Duck confit is a French-style dish where, in brief, seasoned duck legs are gently cooked and submerged in fat in a low oven until very tender. When ready to serve, the duck is removed from the fat and then cooked in a hot oven until rich golden and the skin is crispy.

This technique also works very well with plump chicken legs, as demonstrated in today’s recipe. To prepare them, chicken legs are sprinkled with salt and pepper and then snugly set in a single layer in a baking dish. Sprigs of fresh rosemary (or thyme) and halved, fresh garlic cloves are set around the chicken. Warm olive oil is poured over the chicken, the chicken is covered and then cooked in a low oven until the legs are very tender, but still holding their shape.

At that point the chicken is removed from the oven, uncovered and allowed to cool and rest in the oil 45 minutes. In my recipe, while that occurs, you start to prepare some roasted potatoes and a mustard sauce to serve with the chicken.

Both of those preparations require you to use some of the oil the chicken was cooked in, with the wedges of potatoes being tossed with some of it to help them become golden when roasted. In the sauce, some of that oil is used in the roux that helps thicken it.

When the chicken has rested 45 minutes, it is lifted out of the oil, set on a baking sheet and roasted in a hot oven until richly coloured and the skin is crispy. Beyond the mustard sauce and roasted potatoes, you can also serve the chicken with other vegetables, such as small, snap-top carrots and Brussels sprouts.

You can cook the chicken in the oil a day or two in advance, cool it, refrigerate it and then roast it when ready to serve. See the Eric’s options for details on that.

Chicken Confit

with Grainy Mustard Sauce

and Roasted Potatoes

Tender, succulent, chicken legs, slowly cooked in oil, then roasted in a hot oven until rich golden.

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: About three hours

Makes: four servings

4 large chicken legs (each about 250 to 275 grams; see Note)

• flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 sprigs fresh rosemary or thyme

3 large garlic cloves, each halved

2 1/2 cups olive oil, plus more if needed

10 small, about 2-inch round, yellow-fleshed potatoes, each quartered

2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups chicken stock (divided)

2 Tbsp whole grain Dijon mustard

Preheat oven 300 F. Set out a deep 9-inch square or similar sized baking dish. Season chicken all over with the salt and pepper, and then arrange in a snug, single layer in the baking dish. Set the rosemary (or thyme) and garlic around the chicken.

Pour the 2 1/2 cups olive oil in a small pot, set over medium-low heat and warm to about 225 F when checked with an instant-read thermometer. Pour the warm oil over the chicken. (It’s OK if the chicken is not quite completely submerged. The legs will sink in the oil as they cook). Set the baking dish in a shallow-sided roasting pan. (The baking pan under the baking dish will catch any oil that may overflow the dish as the chicken cooks.)

Tightly cover baking dish with foil. Bake chicken in the middle of the oven two hours, or until the legs are very tender, but are still holding their shape. Let chicken cool in the oil 45 minutes (see Eric’s options).

While chicken cools in the oil, increase oven temperature to 425 F. Line a large sided baking sheet with parchment paper (my pan was 18- x 13-inches). Set potatoes on the baking sheet. Scoop 3 to 4 Tbsp or so of the oil around the chicken over the potatoes.

Season potatoes with salt and pepper, and then toss to coat with the oil. Roast potatoes about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until tender and light golden.

While potatoes roast, make sauce by scooping out and putting 2 Tbsp of the chicken cooking oil around the chicken in a small pot set over medium-high heat. Mix the flour into the oil until well blended, creating a roux. Cook and stir this roux until lightly browned, about two minutes. Slowly whisk in 1/2 cup of the stock. When mixture is very thick, slowly mix in the rest of the stock.

Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer, lowering the heat as needed to maintain that simmer. Simmer sauce three to four minutes, until lightly thickened. Mix in the mustard and season sauce with salt and pepper. Remove sauce from the heat, cover and set it aside for now.

When potatoes are roasted, lift them off the baking sheet and set in a wide, shallow dish. Set potatoes aside for now.

When chicken has cooled 45 minutes, carefully lift the legs out of the oil and on to the baking sheet you roasted the potatoes on.

Roast chicken legs in the 425 F oven for 15 minutes. Set the potatoes around the chicken. Roast chicken 10 to 15 minutes more, or until the skin is crisp and golden and the potatoes are hot again. Set the sauce back over the heat, return to a simmer, and then serve with the chicken and potatoes.

Note: The oil you have left in the baking dish after removing the chicken legs can be strained into a jar, covered and kept refrigerated a few days. It can also be frozen.

Use that oil for chicken confit again or for roasting or sautéing vegetables in. I used plump, flavourful chicken legs processed by Island Farmhouse Poultry ( Their Vancouver Island-raised chicken products are sold at local butcher shops and some grocery stores.

Eric’s options: You can cook the chicken legs in the oil a day or two before roasting and serving them. To do so, once out of the oven and rested in the oil 45 minutes, line a wide plate with plastic wrap. Lift the legs out of the oil and set in a single layer on the plate.

Once legs have cooled to room temperature, tent with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to roast them, and the potatoes, as described in the recipe.

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Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.