Eat: Roasted Capon with Gremolata Butter


This Thanksgiving, with a much smaller number of mouths to feed (10, rather than the usual 20-30 at my family’s house), we opted for a different take on the traditional turkey.  I called Marlow & Daughters a few weeks in advance to see what options they had for the upcoming holiday.  Upon the first utterance of the word “capon”, I was sold.  A capon is a is a rooster that has been castrated at a very young age.  The end result is a bird that is less gamy in taste and much more moist, tender, and flavorful than a hen or rooster. This recipe, adapted from Thomas Keller, worked out beautifully.  Gremolata butter also works universally for making a variety sauces and seasonings, or even spreading on toast.

Gremolata-butter (from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home):

1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, zest of one lemon, 1 large garlic glove, grated or minced, 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.

To make the butter, crush the peppercorns in a heavy duty bag with a heavy pan. Add the lemon zest and garlic and mash to a paste. Put the butter in a medium bowl and mix in the pepper mixture, followed by the lemon juice. Stir in parsley and salt.

Roasted capon:

1 large capon (8-10 lbs) for 8 servings, 1 head of celery, kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, 4 tbsp canola or vegetable oil, 6 garlic cloves (smashed, skin left on), 1 bunch fresh thyme, 1 lemon (used above, cut in half), fleur de sel.

Rinse the capon and dry well with paper towels. Season the inside with salt and pepper. Leave any fat at the neck attached, and trim any other excess fat. Starting at the cavity end of the capon, carefully run your fingers between the skin and flesh of the breasts and the thighs to loosen the skin. Spread about 1 1/2 tablespoon of the gremolata butter under the skin of each thigh and about 3 tablespoon under the skin of each side of the breast.

Truss the capon (tug under wings and tie the legs). Let it sit at room temperature for 30 min (or alternatively, store covered in refrigerator for up to 2 days and let come to room temperature before roasting).

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Place capon in a roasting pan atop several celery stalks, brush with canola oil and sprinkle with salt. Stuff the garlic gloves, thyme, and lemon halves inside the capon.

Transfer to oven and roast until the juices run clear and the inner temperature of the chicken is 165 F (approximately 2 1/2 hours).

Let the capon rest for 20 minutes before carving. Sprinkle with fleur de sel.


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