Turkey Leg Confit (Fancy Dinner, Cheap Ingredient)

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America’s obsession with breasts goes far beyond the pages of Maxim magazine; it’s readily apparent in the poultry section. A large chicken breast for two now costs as much as a whole chicken. And a turkey breast can run as much as $15. America: stop your obsession with cleavage and lower your head a little. See those legs down there? They’re just as meaty, ten times more flavorful and very, very cheap. How cheap? Look how much I paid for these two enormous turkey legs.

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That’s right: $5.96.

Sure, they’re not super fancy, farmer’s market, massaged turkey legs, but the package does say free-range and that counts for something, right? (Actually, most likely, that counts for nothing.) Still: the point is, you’re getting the best part of the turkey for way less than the over-inflated breast. The only question is: what to do with it?

I turned to Twitter last week and a very nice person told me I should make turkey leg confit. Turkey leg confit? Whoever heard of such a thing?

Well I’m here to tell you, it’s a brilliant move. Using a Food & Wine recipe I found online, all you really need is time, thyme, and fat. First you make a seasoned salt with garlic, thyme, lemon zest and pepper:

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Mix that up and rub it all over your turkey legs. Let them sit for 30 minutes.

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At this point, you preheat your oven to 325 and get ready to confit. What does that mean? It means you cover the turkey legs in fat. Now the Food & Wine recipe says to use a combination of duck fat and vegetable oil; I didn’t have duck fat, so I used a combination of vegetable oil and olive oil. This is where the recipe could get expensive, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: it’s ok to use the really cheap stuff. Buy the cheapest olive oil you can and then cover those legs (I transferred to a smaller pot so I didn’t have to us as much).

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You simply transfer that to the oven (drop a few more garlic cloves into the oil first), uncovered, and cook like that for two hours. That’s all there is to it. The health-conscious among you might be grossed out by all the fat, but it’s not like you’re eating all that fat. You’re just cooking the turkey legs in a warm fat bath which allows the meat to sort of fall apart without drying out. And the best part is that it’s a preservation technique so when those two hours are up and you let the turkey legs come to room temperature in the fat, you can refrigerate afterwards (in the fat) and they’ll be great for a week or more.

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But why wait a week when you can eat them now? To serve, all you do is heat a cast iron skillet. While that was happening, I cooked cauliflower in olive oil in a wide skillet, allowing it to brown on high heat, then tossed it all around and continued to cook until it was golden brown all over and cooked all the way through. Towards the end I added some sliced garlic and at the very end chopped parsley. When the cast iron was good and hot, I put the turkey legs in there to sear on the outsides.

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This is just a cosmetic step, not a “kill the germs, finish the meat” kind of step. So it’s just about developing that beautiful golden crust. The end results speak for themselves:

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So enough with the breasts already, America. To rephrase a John Lennon lyric: give legs a chance.

Recipe: Turkey Leg Confit

Summary: Based on a Food & Wine recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 to 4 turkey legs (you can even do more, just make more seasoned salt and use more fat)
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped thyme
  • Zest of a large lemon
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • About 4 cups olive oil (depends on the size of your pot)
  • About 4 cups vegetable oil (again, depends)

Instructions

  1. Make the seasoned salt by mincing 4 of the garlic cloves with the salt and the thyme and the lemon (do it all on the cutting board). Stir together with the ground pepper (about a teaspoon) and then season the turkey legs. (You don’t have to use all the salt; depends how seasoned you like it.) Let them sit for 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325. Place the turkey legs in a pot that will allow you to use the least amount of oil (so a stock pot is a bad idea, a medium pot is a good one). Cover the turkey legs with a combination of olive oil and vegetable oil or, if you don’t want to use vegetable oil, you can use all olive oil. Or duck fat. Or schmaltz. It’s just about covering it with fat. Drop in the remaining two cloves of garlic.
  3. Pop into the oven and cook for 2 hours, turning the legs with a pair of tongs every 30 minutes (though I didn’t do that; it was fine). After 2 hours, test the meat with two forks: you should be able to pull it apart easily. Leave the legs in the fat and allow to come to room temperature.
  4. At this point, you can refrigerate the whole pot with the fat and the turkey legs and pull them out when you’re ready or you can serve right away by heating a cast iron skillet and searing the legs until golden brown on the outside and warmed in the center. Serve with your favorite vegetable, sprinkle with parsley and there’s a fancy dinner for ya from a cheap ingredient.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 2 hour(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

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