Saturday, December 18, 2010

I Can't Believe It's Not Chicken... Or Turkey

   Still looking for the Christmas meat?  (That is not a Santa's package joke....)  So many people cook up another huge turkey even though they just got over the shock and exhaustion of that bird from Thanksgiving.  Or some sticky, sweet ham from a package is plopped on the table.  How about trying something new this year?  I suggest a capon.

   We had a capon for Thanksgiving this year after I wouldn't shut up about it for, oh say... a month.  I slowly wore away at my dad's psyche with my incessant chatter about the bird.  Then in the end, he thought it was his idea all along despite the fact that he was very much against a castrated rooster in the beginning.  That's right, castrated rooster.  A long time ago, the Romans discovered that balls make things taste bad... actually, there was a ban on fattening chickens to conserve grain rations.  Chopping off a rooster's testicles leads to an automatic fattening of the rooster without having to feed it more.  It also improves the quality of the meat because of the reduced levels of circulating hormones (hormones like testosterone and adrenaline make for a gamier flavor) and the lowered activity level prevents overworking of the muscles.  And it keeps roosters from killing each other ('cause they'll do that, you know?)
Fattening Chinese Capon

   I hope I haven't scared you off because this is truly a beautiful meat.  It has white and dark meat just like chickens and turkeys.  The flavor is mild and subtle and tastes like a cross between a really good free-range, organic chicken and a really good free-range, organic turkey.  See?  Nothing to be scared of.  It cooks just like other birds and is an in-between size which is perfect for smaller gatherings (most are 7-9 lbs).  While it may be more expensive than those water pumped, tortured turkeys, it is not outrageous.  Expect to pay $3.50-$3.90/lb.  It's about the same price as serving all of your guests decent chicken breasts.  Also, it's the holidays, you can afford something a little nicer and a lot tastier!
Thanksgiving Capon

   Thaw the bird slowly in the refrigerator (~3 days) or in cool water (~1.5 days).  I suggest brining it for at least 8 hours.  Liberally salt and pepper, lightly sprinkle it with herbs like rosemary and thyme, and roast until the thigh reads 160 deg F on a meat thermometer. 

These recipes sounds fantastic:
Cock of the North (I would adapt this into a roasted dish as opposed to a fricassee)

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