Roasted Capon for the Holidays

Capon: the super chicken. A capon is a rooster that is gelded at a young age, and raised until it’s between 8 and 12 pounds. With its large size and broad breast, capon makes the perfect holiday bird; in fact it’s quite common to find roasted capon at the Christmas table in both France and Italy.

Are you considering an intimate holiday for two, or a party of six, and debating between turkey and chicken? The capon may be your perfect solution.

Read on to see why.

Smaller than a Turkey – Bigger than a Chicken

These extraordinary birds are raised exclusively to be a culinary treat of the highest order. They are less gamey than an intact rooster would be, and have a higher fat content. Plump-breasted with prized, white flesh wonderfully marbled with fat, and a very deep chickeny flavor, a capon can easily carry any holiday feast. Large enough to be grand, yet small enough to manage easily, capon is the perfect bird to carve at the table. This could be the start of a new tradition.

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Trussing the Capon

If you can roast a chicken, you can roast a capon. Begin by trussing the bird. Remove the wishbone, and bind the bird so that the drumsticks rest nicely in place against the tip of the breastbone, with the wing tips folded back neatly beneath the shoulders. It will make for a beautiful shape, cook more evenly, and be easier to carve.

Then rub it with softened, rendered duck fat, salt and pepper the skin and oven roast, much like roasting any chicken.

Oven Roasting the Capon

Begin roasting on the lower middle rack in a preheated 450°F oven; 30 minutes into the roasting, reduce the heat to 350°F for the remainder of the cooking time. This jump-starts the browning process and sears the meat, sealing in precious juices.

TIP: An 8-pound capon will yield about 6 single servings. If you make a dressing, allow 1/2 cup per serving. Be careful not to over stuff the bird. Cook any excess stuffing in a separate baking dish.

Four Sides to Every Bird

You will turn the bird a few times in the process, and baste every 10 or 15 minutes (some duck fat will do nicely in the beginning, before the capon juices start flowing). If you are using an x-shaped rack, you can start the bird breast down for about 15 minutes. Then turn the bird on one side for 20 minutes, then onto its other side for 20 minutes. After that, turn the bird breast up and finish roasting. You can easily coordinate this with your basting. If you use a flat rack, start roasting on one side, then turn onto the other, giving each side an extra five minutes, and finish roasting it breast up.

TIP: Put the bird into the oven legs first to position the dark meat towards the back of the oven.

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Is it Done Yet?

An 8-pound capon should roast in about 1-1/2 hours. Use a quick-read meat thermometer to test the internal temperature. The juices running from the vent should be clear yellow down to the last drop.Tilt the bird over the roasting pan to drain any juices, then transfer it to a board to rest.

Let the bird rest uncovered in a warm place for 20 minutes before carving. It will retain heat just like any other roasted meat, and continue cooking during this time, raising the internal temperature another 5 degrees or so. The ideal final internal temperature for cooked poultry is 165°F.

TIP: All you need is a spoon or two of a delicious deglazing sauce to garnish. Add a chopped onion and carrot to the pan about 50 minutes into the roasting to enhance the flavor of the juices. Sauté minced garlic or shallot in the drippings before adding the deglazing liquid (wine, perhaps?) to add more flavor. Simmer this sauce for several minutes, allowing it to reduce and concentrate, then strain through a sieve.

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