Our fourth Thanksgiving recipe is for the main course—turkey wing confit— and it doesn’t require a lot of labor or time. But the real beauty of this recipe is twofold in that you don’t need a whole turkey, and that the ‘leftovers’ will last a lot longer than the typical post-holiday binge week. All you really need is a big pot of duck fat, salt, garlic, a few turkey wings, and a 200 degree oven.
Unsurprisingly, this recipe comes from the book Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, by Canadian author Jennifer McLagan. She writes:
Although duck legs are the most popular ingredient for making confit, any piece or type of poultry, including lean birds like squab, pheasant, and turkey, benefits from a bath in warm fat. My local market had large turkey wings, which were about the same size as the duck legs I’d been using, so I decided to confit them. This recipe shows you that you can confit any piece of poultry. All you have to do is adjust the cooking time, since it depends on the size of the pieces.
Sold in packages, turkey wings tend to be inexpensive, and are definitely more manageable than a giant turkey. Salty, shredded turkey wing confit is good on a biscuit with pickles and cranberry jam. And starting this recipe two days in advance leaves you more time on Thanksgiving to figure out what you’re going to do with all the leftover duck fat.
By Jennifer McLagan
[makes 12 pieces]
1 ½ ounces sea salt
20 fresh sage leaves
2 tsp. black peppercorns
seeds from 6 cardamom pods
¼ tsp ground mace
6 whole turkey wings (4.5 to 5 pounds)
3 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
6 ½ cups duck fat, melted
Prep: 1) Combine the salt, sage leaves, peppercorns, cardamom seeds, and mace in a spice grinder and grind until powdery. 2) Remove the tips from the turkey wings and set them aside for stock. Cut the wings into two pieces. 3) Rub the turkey wings with the garlic cloves and place both the turkey and the garlic in a glass dish. Sprinkle the turkey pieces with the salt mixture, turning to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 2 days.
Cook: Preheat the oven to 200 F. Rinse the legs to remove excess seasoning mixture and pat dry. Place the legs in a heavy flameproof casserole or Dutch oven, putting the biggest legs on the bottom, skin side down, and the smaller legs on the top, skin side up. Add garlic cloves and enough fat to just cover the legs and place the pan over medium heat, When you see the first bubble in the fat, remove the pan from the heat and place on a rimmed baking sheet in the oven. Cook, uncovered, until the meat is very tender and has shrunk away from the bone, 4 to 5 hours. The juices should run clear when a leg is pierced with a skewer. If any part of the legs is not quite covered, just turn the legs after 2 hours of cooking.
Sources: Turkey wings can be found anywhere, from C-Town to Citarella. Duck fat is an investment for your home kitchen. D’Artagnan sells duck fat in 7 oz. and 10 lb. containers. It’s available at most Fairway stores or online directly from D’Artagnan. After cooking, the reserved duck fat can be re-used for lots of other fatty cooking experiments, all year long. It doesn’t really go bad too easily, especially when kept in the freezer. McLagan’s book contains a few dozen duck fat recipes. You can continue to confit turkey or duck, fry french fries in duck fat, or make Pâte Brisée and bake some really nice pies. You can cook garlic cloves and vegetables like fennel in duck fat. Provided you’re not vegetarian, duck fat is the gift that keeps on giving.