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. I don't recommend using duck fat, which is traditional with confit, because I don't want a ducky flavor with upland birds. But if this doesn't bother you, go for it. Of course you can use this technique with lots of animals, and I find these flavors work well with any chicken-like bird: Chickens of course, but also turkeys, grouse, quail and partridges.
6legs and thighs of pheasants,grouse, quail or partridges
kosher salt(see above)
1tablespoonfresh ground black pepper
Zest of a lemon, minced(optional)
1cupolive 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 at least 6 hours, and up to three days.
When you are done curing the legs, rinse them off, then pat dry with paper towels. Put on a rack to dry further while you make the vac-bags. Make two vacuum bags each large enough to hold the legs in one layer. Put a little butter, lard or oil into the bottom of each; I add about 1/4 cup. 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; you need a large pot to keep the temperature stable - the smaller the pot, the faster the water temperature will change. Poach the legs for 4 to 8 hours, flipping every half hour or so if they float. Young, tender birds (or pen-raised birds) will need only 4 hours, old pheasants might 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.
When you are ready to eat your confit, you will probably want to crisp it up. You can sear it in a pan, but that method spatters a lot. I prefer to roast the leg/thighs, skin side up, in a pan in a 400°F oven. No need to preheat the oven, just pop in the legs and cook until it is as crispy as you like, anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes.
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.
Once made, this confit will last — sealed in its bag — for a month. It can also be frozen for up to a year.