Confit is one of those old-fashioned food preservation things that we still do because it’s delicious. After meat is salted and braised in its own fat, it can safely sit, submerged in that fat, for weeks without spoiling. Until the zombie apocalypse, we have refrigeration, but that doesn’t mean we can’t also have confit. This confited chicken is spiced with ras el hanout, a North African spice mix (I like the one from New York Shuk), which will make you feel warm inside and confidently charming on the outside. My favorite way to serve this confit is to crisp it up and pile it on top of herby, confit fat–dressed rice noodles. I garnish with bright pickled tomatoes, slightly sweetened with earthy molasses and floral vanilla to cut through it all.
- For preparing chicken:
- 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, 3 to 4 pounds
- 1⁄4 cup kosher salt
- 4 teaspoons ras el hanout
- 1 head garlic, cloves peeled and smashed
- 24 sprigs fresh thyme
- For pickled tomatoes:
- 3⁄4 cup distilled white vinegar
- 1⁄2 cup water
- 1 1⁄2 tablespoons molasses
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
- 1⁄2 yellow onion, diced
- 12 sprigs fresh thyme
- For cooking chicken:
- 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 1 1⁄2 cups olive oil
- 1 1⁄2 cups vegetable oil
- For herby rice noodle salad:
- 2 pounds cooked rice vermicelli
- 2 cups chopped herbs (such as parsley, mint, basil, or dill)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- Put the chicken, salt, ras el hanout, garlic, and thyme in a ziplock freezer bag. Seal the bag and shake vigorously. Put the bag in a plastic container to prevent leakage, and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.
- To pickle the tomatoes, combine the vinegar, water, molasses, salt, and vanilla in a nonreactive container with a tight-fitting lid. Cover and shake to completely dissolve the salt. Add the tomatoes, onion, and thyme and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 2 weeks.
- Heat the oven to 225°F. Remove the bag with the chicken from the refrigerator. Pour the contents into a colander in the sink and rinse. Transfer the chicken, garlic, and thyme sprigs to an 8 by 8-inch baking dish with fairly high sides, or a Dutch oven, so that the chicken sits in one layer. Spread the sliced onion on top and pour in the oils, until the chicken is completely covered. Bake for 6 hours, or until the onion has caramelized and the chicken is super tender and delicious and falling off of the bone. Carefully pull the dish out of the oven to cool for an hour, then remove the chicken and strain the fat into a clean lidded jar (it’ll keep in the fridge for months). Shred the cooked chicken and set aside on a large plate.
- To make the noodle salad, in a bowl, toss the rice noodles with the herbs, 1⁄2 cup of the reserved confit fat, and the salt.
- Heat 2 teaspoons of the confit fat in a large nonstick pan over high heat until it just starts to smoke. Add the shredded chicken confit and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the meat is browned, crispy, and insanely fragrant. Divide the noodle salad among eight bowls and top with the sautéed confit and some pickled tomatoes, and serve.
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