Chickens are the backbone of the frugal kitchen: They’re less expensive than beef or pork, and useful down to the bones. The most frugal way to use chickens is to buy them whole and cut them up yourself. You’ll not only save money, but chicken tastes much better when cooked with the skin and bones. A whole organic bird usually costs less per pound than precut, skinned and boned parts, and it tastes so much better.
Confit (cohn-FEE) is a classic French cooking method in which food is slow-cooked in its own fat. It’s a cheap trick used by restaurants to make the food taste extra-rich and delicious. Once you’ve mastered the technique, try it with duck or turkey and experiment with different herbs.
• 6 chicken leg quarters
• 1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
• Fresh rosemary, thyme or oregano sprigs
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• ¼ cup olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 225 degrees.
2. Place chicken leg quarters snugly in a single layer in a broiler pan. Place a rimmed baking sheet under the roasting pan to catch any overflow of juices. Nestle the garlic cloves among the chicken pieces and tuck in the fresh herb sprigs. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil.
3. Bake for about 1 hour. Check the pan. If it has spilled over or looks as if it’s about to, skim off some of the liquid fat.
4. Turn the heat up to 350 degrees and cook for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, until chicken skin is golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the fat for 15 to 20 minutes.
5. To serve immediately, remove chicken from the fat and blot on paper towels, or pull the meat from the bones and shred it to serve over pasta or salad greens. Reserve the skin and bones for making soup stock.
6. To store, put the whole legs or shredded meat in an airtight container and cover with the liquid fat. Store in the fridge for a week, or for up to 6 months in the freezer. To reheat, sauté in a few tablespoons of the reserved fat until crisp and golden.
Lara Starr and Lynette Shirk’s book, The Frugal Foodie Cookbook: Waste-Not Recipes for the Wise Cook (Viva Editions), was released in September 2009.
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The Frugal Foodie: 8 Recipes