The capon is the bird of choice for Christmas in Italy (it's a male castrated chicken, ouch). The capon is a little fattier than chicken, and has a great flavor. A 6-7lb bird is large enough for a small dinner party. I boiled the head, feet and insides to make stock for risotto.
There are a couple of nice aspects to the recipe. First, it uses the heat of the oven and dome to brown and seal the bird, and it uses dessert wine and tomatoes to make a very rich and flavorful sauce/gravy. You turn the bird a number of times when the oven is still hot, then cover it with foil for the 90 minute roasting period. Our visitors said it was the best meal they've had on their trip.
6-7 pound capon
1 carrot, diced
1 onion, diced
1 glove of garlic, smashed and minced
1 glove of garlic, slivered (optional)
5 TBL olive oil
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup Vin Santo (I think any dessert wine will do)
1 can of peeled, chopped tomatoes
Place the carrot, onion, smashed garlic and 3 TBL olive oil to a metal cooking pan capable of holding a couple cups of liquid. Cut 6-8 slits in the bird meat and set the slivered garlic in the cuts. Place the bird in the pan, and coat it with the last 2 TBL of olive oil.
Fire your oven until the carbon burns off (650F+), then shovel out all the coals and let it rest for a few minutes. Make sure you have driven enough heat into the oven to roast for about 2 hours. You want a hot oven, which is capable of browning your bird from the dome heat, but not so hot that you burn everything in the first few minutes.
Place the pan in the hot oven, and when the top of the bird starts to brown, turn the bird a quarter turn. Keep browning and turning the bird until it is a nice medium brown. Cover the bird with two layers of aluminum foil, taking care to cover the tips of the wings and the legs.
Add the stock, vin Santo and tomatoes. The liquids will cook into a great sauce, and the tomatoes will disappear.
Cook for 90 minutes, or until the bird is done.
Strain the sauce to remove the carrot and onion pieces, and skim off the excess oil and fat. You can either use the sauce as is, or as the base for a thickened gravy.
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