The original method for making the dish is to cure duck legs in spices and salt, submerge them in duck fat, and cook them very slowly until they emerge crispy and crunchy from the oven. But just imagine the amount of duck fat needed! That’s why this recipe is such a godsend for duck confit-lovers. It does require a 24-hour wait before cooking, but the results are worth every minute.
In a small bowl, combine salt, pepper, thyme, and bay leaf pieces. Sprinkle duck generously with mixture. Place duck legs in a pan in one layer. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours.
The next day, preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Place duck legs, fat side down, in a large ovenproof skillet, with legs fitting snugly in a single layer (you may have to use two skillets or cook them in batches). Heat duck legs over medium-high heat until fat starts to render. When there is about 1/4 inch of rendered fat in pan, about 20 minutes, flip duck legs, cover pan with foil, and place it in oven. If you have used two pans, transfer duck and fat to a roasting pan, cover with foil and place in oven.
Roast legs for 2 hours, then remove foil and continue roasting until duck is golden brown — about 1 hour more. Remove duck from fat; reserve fat for other uses.
Serve duck hot or warm over roasted potatoes, noodles, or sturdy salad greens.