I am all for sticking a lemon in a 3 lb. chicken, rubbing it with salt and pepper, slipping some herb butter under the skin, sticking it in a pre-heated oven and one hour later - dinner. There is little that can be better than the simple roast chickens popularized by Anthony Bourdain and Thomas Keller. I mean, how can you go wrong following those geniuses. But when it's Sunday - and you have a little more time, try a capon and a little extra step. Poaching the bird in a milk based liquid before roasting makes for a tender bird that browns beautifully. The delicious poaching liquid makes a great base for soup made with the leftover carcass and capon meat. Two for one! —Canned
6 with leftovers
Capon, 8 to 10 lbs - as always, it is best to know where your bird came from (mine came with feet and head - thanks, Joyce Farms, http://www.joyce-farms.com/heritage-poultry/poulet-rouge-capon-31/poulet-rouge-capon.html#.UvfYY8uPJfw, did not expect that)
Stuff capon with lemon halves and onion halves. Cut slits in the skin opposite each leg. Poke the leg in the slit under the opposite leg (from the inside out) so that the knuckle holds. Repeat with remaining leg – sort of a self-trussed bird I first learned to do reading Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles cookbook - pages 182-3 - worth buying the book just to read it!
Place the capon, ankle sides up in a stock pot large enough to hold it. Add the milk, 2 parsnips (cut in chunks), 1 carrot (cut in chunks), 1 celery stalk (cut in chunks), bay leaves, lemon peel, dried mushrooms, peppercorns, lavender and fennel. Add enough water to cover the bird.
Bring the capon and liquid to a simmer and simmer for 30 minutes.
In the meantime, using the remaining carrot, parsnips, celery, garlic, rosemary sprigs and sliced onion create a bed for the bird to lay on in a 12” cast iron skillet.
When the capon is finished simmering, pull the bird out of the poaching liquid (reserve the liquid – it make a great base for soup using leftover capon), and place the bird on the vegetable rack in the skillet. It is ok for the liquid in the cavity to pour into the skillet. Salt and pepper the bird. Add three cups of poaching liquid and 1 cup wine to bottom of skillet and place capon in pre-heated oven.
Roast the capon at 300 degrees for 1 hour, turning the pan once. Raise the heat to 350 degrees and continue cooking until an instant read thermometer registers 175 degrees in the thickest part of the capon (one of those automatic thermometers that beep when the correct temperature is reached is useful here given the variables in time) – about 30 to 45 minutes more. Nicely browned, right?
Remove capon from oven and place on a platter or cutting board. Let rest under tented foil for 15 minutes before slicing. Remove woody stems from rosemary sprigs from the vegetables and roasting liquid. Puree the vegetables and roasting liquid with an immersion blender (or free standing blender). If need be, thin with poaching liquid. Bring the pureed sauce in the skillet to the boil and serve with the sliced capon.