1.Wash chickens under cold water; pat dry inside and out with absorbent paper. Cut along both sides of backbone with kitchen scissors; reserve bones. Place chickens, breast-side up, on board. Press the breast bone with the heel of your hand to flatten. Cut along breast bones, then cut away rib cages; reserve. Cut wing tips from first joint of wing bone; reserve.
2.Combine chicken halves, salt, peeled finely chopped shallots, crushed garlic and thyme in large non-metallic dish. Refrigerate 1 hour.
3.Preheat oven to 160°C/325°F.
4.Brush excess salt mixture from chicken; pat dry with absorbent paper. Place chicken in single layer in two large non-metallic casserole dishes. Melt duck fat in medium saucepan over low heat; pour over chicken until completely covered. Cook, uncovered, for 1½ hours.
5.Meanwhile, make pan jus. Heat oil in large saucepan. Cook reserved chicken bones and wing tips, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes or until browned. Drain fat from pan. Add coarsely chopped vegetables and thyme; cook until browned lightly. Add wine, bring to the boil; reduce heat, simmer, uncovered, until mixture is reduced by about two-thirds. Add stock and the water. Bring to the boil, reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 1 hour, skimming regularly. Strain jus through muslin-lined colander over large heatproof bowl; discard solids. Return jus to same pan; bring to the boil, reduce heat, simmer, uncovered, about 10 minutes or until reduced to about 1 cup.
6.Increase oven temperature to 220°C/425°F.
7.Remove chickens from fat; place, in single layer, on baking paper-lined oven trays. Roast, uncovered, about 15 minutes or until browned.
8.Serve chickens with spinach and pan jus.
Rendered duck fat is available from gourmet food stores and some supermarkets and gourmet butcher shops. We used baby spinach here, but you can use watercress as well, like we did on the cover recipe. Confit means ‘to preserve ‘a food item, usually a meat like duck, goose or pork. The meat is salted and cooked slowly in its own fat. It is then packed into a pot and covered with the cooking fat, which works as a seal and preservative.