Thanksgiving recipe: Evan Kleiman’s Turkey leg confit

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Evan Kleiman's turkey leg confit. Photo by Evan Kleiman.

Several Good Food listeners heard the audio clip where I described how to confit turkey legs (which has become a standing Thanksgiving tradition) and asked for the written recipe. I’ve written it down below, along with a few ideas for leftovers. I love this dish so much that last year I made it again, the week after Thanksgiving.

Photo by Evan Kleiman. 

Meat that has been confit (ed?) is just like any other meat but more so.  It has a silky luscious texture that begs to be used in oh so many dishes. After you lift the meat out of the duck fat, you can blot it off and use it as is, which gives you a very tender, falling-apart protein that is lovely as an addition to a rice dish (think risotto or arroz con pavo) or a pan of stewed or roasted veg.  Or you can roast it to give the outside some crispness. Roasted, it’s sort of like the carnitas of turkey. It’s wonderful in main-course lettuce salads or “composed” salads (think nicoise). Roasted root veggies, blanched green vegetables, lettuces, with an assertive mustardy vinaigrette. I use the meat in tacos and burritos – anywhere you want a chunk of good deep flavor and tender texture. Also excellent in sandwiches and eaten with the fingers over the sink.  Basically it’s just good.

Recipe: Turkey leg confit

4 turkey legs with thighs attached or 8 thighs

1 tablespoon Kosher salt

1 teaspoon peppercorns

10 fresh sage leaves

5 fresh thyme sprigs

1 quart rendered duck fat

Salt the turkey legs all over, then place them in a baking dish or other container just big enough to hold them in one layer. Sprinkle the peppercorns over them, then tuck the fresh herbs under, around and on the legs. Refrigerate overnight, uncovered.

The next day, remove the pan of “cured” legs from the refrigerator. Lift meat out of the pan and place in a Dutch oven in one layer.

Preheat the oven to 325º.

Slowly heat the duck fat over low heat until it liquifies. Carefully pour duck fat over the legs until they are completely covered. Bring to a very gentle simmer on the stove. You want to see tiny bubbles just below the surface.

Carefully remove the pot and place it on the middle shelf of the oven, uncovered. Let meat poach in barely simmering fat for a maximum of one to one and a half hours, adjusting oven temperature as needed.

You want it to be just below the simmer. When done, remove the pan from the oven and let the legs cool in the fat. Store them in the pot in the refrigerator. You can make these up to a week in advance.

Wipe excess fat off the legs/thighs as you lift the meat from the pot. Lay on a baking sheet with skin side up. Heat in a preheated 400º oven until skin crisps and meat is hot.

You can strain the duck fat and use it again for another purpose (like a savory pie crust). It’s easy to store in the freezer.