Next-Level Poultry: Capons

My poultry purveyor at Findlay has beautiful capons.  Organic capons are castrated male chickens, resulting in oversized birds with a preponderance of exceptionally tender breast meat.  The capon lends itself to very slow, low-temperature roasting… as low as 250 degrees, although slow-roasting is not a requirement.

Roasting a capon every week or every other week can create the fundamentals for several wonderful meals.  Once again, simple ingredients make the meal.

One fundamental is herbed butter, in the industry called hotel butter.  It’s simply blending unsalted (sweet) butter at room temperature with herbs and/or seasonings for immediate or future use.  Hotel butter, as you’ll see in this recipe, is a basting agent for the capon and the vegetables that accompany it.  Frozen into a cylinder, it can be sliced to finish cooked veggies or grilled/roasted meats or breads.

Massage, by hand, into 4 Tbsp unsalted butter the grated zest of one lemon, 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper.  Slip your fingers between the skin and the surface of the capon breast to loosen.  Slide a small quantity of hotel butter under the skin, coating the breast completely, then rub additional butter over the entire surface of the bird, including the legs and wings.  Place 6 lemon wedges in the cavity of the capon and tie the legs together with kitchen string to retain its shape.

A number of years ago I treated myself to French roasting pan with a pour-spout.  It’s proven to be money well spent.  Roast the approximately 8# capon at 375 for 30 minutes, basting the bird at the end of the cooking period.  Add baby golden potatoes coated in herbed butter; roast for another 30 minutes.  Baste.  At this time, the addition of 1 cup of refrigerated white stock around the bird is helpful.  Add peeled, rough-chopped carrots (also butter-coated); roast for another 15 minutes.  Insert an instant-read thermometer into the meaty portion of the thigh and into an area deep in the breast, being careful not to touch bone.  Remove the capon when the interior temperature reaches 165 degrees.

If you’re new to capons, you’re in for a treat.  They are tender and succulent, and make any meal memorable.  Even better, the leftover meat has many other uses.

Check with me tomorrow for extra credit.

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