Friday, July 22, 2011

Chicken Wing Confit

The exception that proves the rule. That’s what we have here on Day 2 of our Fantastic Four Food Night Grilling posts. Course #2 – not grilled. But it DOES touch on a technique Food Night is extreeeeeeemly fond of; Confit.

And in this case, Chicken Wing Confit. There is no question that the wing is not exactly the most glamorous part of the bird. When you think “chicken wing”, you likely think of deep fried, smokin’ hot, somewhat forgettable bits of bird that are typically drowning in buffalo or other cloyingly sweet and/or sour sauce. Not to put words in your mouth, of course. But if you confit the wing... look what fun that can be...

Food Night assures you, the confit process is INSANELY easy, and produces results that are preposterously good and disproportionate to the level of effort required. The simple three step "how to confit poultry" process is as follows;

1). Cure. Season your poultry with a healthy does of salt. More than you normally would use if you were going to simply grill or sautee the item. Seasonings? Optional, but encouraged. Add them now. Garlic, fresh herbs, fennel, clove, peppercorn, etc. Cover, and let the product hang out on the cure in the refrigerator for 24 hrs. Or more, preferably, like say 72 hrs.

*Those are duck legs from Heartland on the cure.

2). Rinse, pat dry. Place in an oven going pot. Cover completely with fat (traditionalists would use fat from whatever protein you are using…chicken fat, duck fat... but I’ve been using olive oil to great success thanks to Michael Ruhlman). Bring to a bubble on the stove, then place in a 180 degree oven for 12 hours.

*Whole Foods currently has very cost effective large format containers of olive oil.

3). Remove the pot from oven, skim any gunk off the top of the pot, and let cool. DONE. You now have confit’d… whatever. Duck legs. Chicken legs. Chicken wings. Duck wings. Go crazy. Store your “whatevers” COMPLETELY submerged in the fat in the refrigerator*, where they will keep pretty much indefinitely. Please make sure your whatevers are totally submerged in fat to preserve them safely and properly.

*Here is where a Le Creuset vessel comes in handy as it will go from refrigerator, to oven, to cool on the counter, and back to the refrigerator. Very convenient.

From here, you can simply remove your preserved legs/thighs/whatever from the fat, and reheat them on a sheet pan in the oven, perhaps broiling them a little at the end to crisp up the skin.

For the GrillTastic Food Night, I had some leftover chicken wing confit that I’d made a few weeks earlier. And I found some of the season’s first killer heirloom tomatoes at the co-op. So… this happened…

Honey Bourbon Glazed Chicken Wing Confit with Heirloom Tomato Salad
1). Make chicken wing confit, using the technique above. This can/should be done WELL in advance. Food Night added a whole pile of fresh herbs (tarragon, thyme, oregano) and lots of shaved garlic, in addition to allepo chile flakes, fennel, coriander seed and cumin to the cure. And the wings were actually on the cure for 72 hours.

2). Get started on Heirloom Tomato salad (recipe follows). You’ll want the tomatoes seasoned and sitting in a colander as you warm the wings in the oven.

3). Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove wings from fat (fat should be at room temp so it isn’t solidified), arrange on baking sheet, and place in oven to warm.

4). Whisk together the Honey Bourbon Glaze (recipe follows) while wings are warming.

5). Baste wings with glaze a time or two while they are warming.

6). Remove wings from oven. Turn on broiler. Reduce glaze in a saucepan to thicken. Baste again with thickened glaze and broil to char SLIGHTLY. Remove from oven, and baste again.

7). Lovingly arrange wings on a plate, scatter with tomatoes, garnish with more shaved radish, chives, and a few flecks of Maldon on the wings (not on the tomatoes… those are plenty seasoned).

8). Devour. But don’t eat the bones…

Heirloom Tomato Salad
Heirloom Tomatoes, of various colors
Breakfast Radish, shaved thin on a mandoline
Olive oil
Kosher Salt
Finely diced fresh green or red chile (optional)
Finely diced chives

1). Dice the tomatoes into smallish (pea sized or larger) chunks. Place in a colander, season with salt, and let stand for at least 20 minutes. The tomatoes will throw some moisture, concentrating their flavor.

2). Toss the tomatoes with the remaining ingredients and reserve for use with the wings.

Honey Bourbon Glaze
2T honey (or brown sugar if you find yourself honeyless)
Juice of half a lime
Zest of half a lime
2t sriracha hot sauce
1T whole grain mustard
1T Dijon mustard
1T soy sauce
2T bourbon
2t smoked paprika

Whisk all ingredients together. The end.

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