We fell in love with this dish when Melissa ordered it at Momofuku Noodle Bar in Toronto. The simple combination of rice, chicken, pickled cucumbers and soft-poached eggs fits together to make a perfectly balanced dish. Paired with a light beer, it's simply amazing. It looks intimidating, but once each part is completed, it comes together quickly. You can also prepare the chicken, and poach the eggs days ahead of time, for a quick and easy meal.
8 cups lukewarm water
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 boneless chicken legs
2 strips smoky bacon, preferably from a Deli Counter
3-5 cups of grapeseed oil
2 Kirby cucumbers
4 cups cooked Short-Grain Rice
4 Slow-Poached Eggs (directions below) or regular poached eggs
1/2 cup sliced scallions (greens and whites)
Combine the water, 1 cup of the sugar, and 1 cup of the salt in a large container with a lid or a plastic freezer bag large enough to accommodate the brine and chicken and stir until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Add the chicken, cover or seal, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, no more than 6.
Remove the chicken from the brine and discard the brine.
Heat the oven to 180 degrees F.
Pack the chicken legs snugly into a pot or other oven-safe vessel-the shape doesn't matter so much, but the less extra space there is, the less fat will be required to submerge the chicken. Tuck the bacon in with it. Heat the grapeseed oil until warm and liquefied and pour it over the chicken to cover. Put the chicken in the oven and cook for 50 minutes. Remove the pot from the oven and cool to room temperature.
Put the chicken in the refrigerator to thoroughly chill it in the fat. The chicken can be prepared through this step a week or more in advance.
When you're ready to serve the dish, heat the chicken confit in its pot, in a low oven (around 200 degrees F) or on the stovetop just until the oil liquefies.
While you're waiting, make a quick cucumber pickle: Slice the cucumbers into coins a little less than ⅛ inch thick. Toss with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 teaspoon salt in a small bowl and allow to sit until ready to use.
Remove the chicken from the oil with a slotted spoon and put it on a cutting board or large plate; set the pot aside. Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat for a minute or two, until the pan is hot (hold your hand over the center of the pan-it should feel hot from an inch or so away). Add the chicken legs skin side down (use two pans if too crowded), and brown them deeply, 3 to 4 minutes, on the skin side only, using a bacon press or a small heavy skillet to weigh them down while cooking. Transfer the browned legs to a cutting board.
Portion the rice among four deep soup bowls. Use the back of a spoon to create a shallow divot in the middle of each bowl of rice and slide an egg into it. Divide the cucumber pickles among the bowls, nestling them together into a little mound. Slice the chicken legs into 1/2-inch-thick slices, and fan one sliced chicken leg around the egg in each bowl. Sprinkle with the scallions and serve.
Slow Poached Eggs
Fill your biggest, deepest pot with water and put it on the stove over the lowest possible heat.
Use something to keep the eggs from sitting on the bottom of the pot, where the temperature will be highest. If you've got a cake rack or a steamer rack, use it. If not, improvise: a doughnut of aluminum foil or a few chopsticks scattered helter skelter across the bottom of the pan will usually do the trick, but you know what you've got lying around. Be resourceful.
Use an instant-read thermometer to monitor the temperature in the pot-if it's too hot, add cold water or an ice cube. Once the water is between 140 degrees and 145 degrees F, add the eggs to the pot. Let them bathe for 40 to 45 minutes, checking the temperature regularly with the thermometer or by sticking your finger in the water (it should be the temperature of a very hot bath) and moderating it as needed.
You can use the eggs immediately or store them in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. (If you're planning on storing them, chill them until cold in an ice-water bath.) If you refrigerate the eggs, warm them under piping-hot tap water for 1 minute before using.
To serve the eggs, crack them one at a time into a small saucer. The thin white will not and should not be firm or solid; tip the dish to pour off and discard the loosest part of the white, then slide the egg onto the dish it's destined for.