This is a great method for preserving and eating the legs of upland game birds like pheasants, grouse, partridges or quail. Confit is a French method of slightly curing meat, then poaching it gently in fat until it is meltingly tender. I use a modified sous vide method for this, as it uses less fat than submerging the pheasant legs in 4 to 5 cups of fat or oil.
I save up chicken fat or pheasant fat and combine it with butter, but you could also use lard or olive oil. Don’t use duck fat, which is traditional with confit, because you don’t want a ducky flavor with upland birds.
Once made, this confit will last — sealed in its bag — for a month. It can also be frozen for up to a year.
Makes 6 legs of confit
Prep Time: 12 hours, passive curing time
Cook Time: 8 hours
- 6 legs and thighs of pheasants, grouse, quail or partridges
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
- Zest of a lemon
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup olive oil, lard or butter
- This recipe works best with a vacuum sealer. If you don’t have one, you should get one, as they are endlessly useful. But alternative directions are at the end.
- Mix the salt, thyme, black pepper and lemon zest together. Pack the pheasant legs with the mixture. Press it into the skin and exposed meat, and make sure every part has some on it. Refrigerate for no more than 24 hours, or as little as 6 hours. The longer you go, the saltier it will get — and the longer it will preserve.
- The next day, rinse off all the legs and thighs, then dry well. Put on a rack to dry further while you make the vac-bags. Make two vacuum bags each large enough to hold 3 legs or wings. Put a little butter, lard or oil into the bottom of each. Add the pheasant legs and the bay leaves, then divvy up the rest of the fat between the two bags.
- Seal the bags and and place in a large pot (the largest you have) two-thirds filled with water that is somewhere around 170°F to 180°F, which is below a simmer. Poach the legs for 5 to 8 hours, flipping every half hour or so if they float. Young, tender birds need only 4 hours, old pheasants will need the full eight hours.
- Remove the bags from the water and plunge them into a large bowl of ice water. When they’re cool, store in the fridge.
IF YOU DON’T HAVE A VACUUM SEALER:
- Rinse the cure off as above, then pat dry very, very well.
- Totally submerge in oil — you will need 4 to 5 cups — and put, uncovered, in an oven set on “warm,” or not hotter than 200°F. Alternatively, you can do this on a stovetop with a weak burner set on low, or with a flame tamer. Watch that the oil never sizzles.
- Cooking time will be about the same. When you are done, filter the oil through cheesecloth — you can use it again.