Saturday, December 22, 2012

Roasted capon, celeriac puree... and merry Christmas to all

Concluding this week's holiday recipe marathon, after some holiday hors d'œuvres, a sunchoke chestnut vanilla soup, a first course of scallops and avocado chaudfroid, sharing here the recipe I'll be using on Monday for a roasted capon with chestnut apple sage stuffing, and a celeriac goat cheese puree to go with it. I know it is late in the game and everyone probably has their menu planned out, but who knows, maybe it can inspire someone out there still looking for ideas.

I had been planning to post this earlier, and have been working on a post about the roles we play in life, and what they mean. But it looks like I will be sharing those thoughts after Christmas.
Why, you ask?

Because of caramel.

Yes, tonight, instead of philosophizing, analyzing and writing, instead of being cerebral, I made caramel. And let me tell you, boy was it therapeutic.

Life hasn't been particularly easy on me these past few days and weeks. This has meant a good deal of time spent in my head. So tonight, when for a few minutes, I found myself fully in the moment, in the glorious butter-bubbling-in-melted-sugar moment, I forgot all the rest. I can't remember if I've ever made caramel. I didn't really know what to expect. I was following a very trustworthy recipe by Beth from Local Milk, and I let myself be guided, without trying to predict how it would turn out. And that, I suppose, is the reason why it turned out great.

In stressful moments, I will have to plunge myself back into that moment in time, vigorously stirring the bubbling butter and cream into the caramel, watching it take shape under my hand. I am thankful for these moments where the world and my life make sense. Tonight, it gave me some much needed inner calm.

I shall have to remember that also on Monday. Preparing a big 6-course dinner for 12 people has made me stress out in the past. It has made me lose sight of what matters: togetherness and connection with friends and family, thankfulness for all we have, warmth and hope for the year to come, and of course, that Christmas magic in the eyes of Pablo when he looks at the tree, or listens to Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer, or tries to picture Santa coming down the chimney. I will have to swirl all that into my caramel experience to keep it close in my head on Monday, so I may enjoy not only the dinner, but all the preparations leading up to it. Times ahead may be tough, but that night will be good, even if I were to burn the capon I'm going to tell you about...

So. Capon. What is it exactly? To put it bluntly, it is a castrated rooster that has been fed a diet of milk and porridge (more info here). It is considered a luxury meat in France, and definitely a holiday favorite. Its meat is gamier, juicier, more flavorful than chicken, and can be very tender if roasted correctly, because of the high fat content.

This is a fairly easy recipe with the stuffing, and the celeriac-potato puree complements it nicely. Hope you get to try it and tell me what you think!


Wishing you and yours a very merry Christmas, with all the warmth and love and magic of the season. I am always immensely thankful for everyone of you reading these words.

Buttermilk capon with chestnut, apple & sage stuffing

Serves about 8
Prep time: 30 minutes + brining time from 3-24 hours
Cook time: 2h30
Age for babies: 8-10 months because of the variety of ingredients.
1 6-7 lbs capon
2 1/2 quarts of cultured buttermilk for the brine
4 slices of thick cut smoked bacon, chopped
7 oz ground veal (or pork if veal isn't available)
1/4 cup minced Italian parsley
6-7 sage leaves, minced
1 onion, minced
2 cloves
1 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
7 oz of cooked chestnuts (best to use the pre-cooked ones in a jar or vacuum sealed)
1 apple, peeled, cored and diced
2 slices of stale white bread, crust removed (I use buttermilk)
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
Salt & pepper
The brine, to do the night before, or at least 3-4 hours prior to roasting:
Place the capon in a large pot and immerse it completely in buttermilk (try to use a pot where the capon is snug so you need to use less buttermilk to submerge it.)
Cover with plastic wrap, and store 3-4 hours, or overnight.
The stuffing:
Heat the milk and soak the bread in it. Chop the chestnuts.
In a frying pan, melt the bacon. Remove the bread from the milk and squeeze it.
In a food processor, mix the bacon, the ground veal, onion, shallot, garlic, and cloves. Add the chestnuts, apple, bread, parsley, sage and egg. Pulse a few times. Add salt and pepper.
And the roasting:
Remove the capon from the buttermilk brine. Put the stuffing inside the bird, and close it up tight with kitchen string. (If you have leftover stuffing, place in a buttered baking dish, and you put it in the oven with the capon at about the 2 hour mark, so it bakes for 30-40 minutes).
Place the capon if possible in a deep ovenproof pot or Dutch oven. (You can use a roasting pan, but I found that the "high walls" of a Dutch oven help keep the meat very moist and tender.)
Add 10 tbsp of water to the Dutch oven, and place it in the cold oven.
Roast at 400°F for 2 1/2 hours, basting often throughout.
Remove the bird from the oven, and let it rest 5 minutes before carving.
I simply pour the cooking juices into a gravy boat (reheating them if necessary), as an "au jus" to pour over the puree if desired.

Celeriac & potato puree with goat cheese

Serves 6-8
Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 30 min
Age for babies: 6-8 months (you can make a baby version of this puree by substituting the heavy cream with formula or BM. Skip the salt as well. When you make your puree for grown-ups, just set aside a little bit of the mashed celery/potatoes, add a little goat cheese, milk to desired consistency and blend well.)
3 celery roots, peeled and diced
3 Yukon potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 oz fresh goat cheese
Salt and pepper
Place the celery root and potatoes in cold salted water, and bring to a boil. Cook for about 25 minutes, until tender. Drain.
Mash the celery/potato with a potato masher. Then, adding the heavy cream slowly, with an electric mixer, beat the puree until you obtain the desired consistency. Add the goat cheese, and beat again.
Reheat over low heat until hot enough. Add salt & pepper to taste. And a drizzle of truffle oil can't hurt either...
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  1. But what did you do with the caramel?
    It's such kitchen alchemy - making magic out of such simple ingredients.
    I hope it all goes smoothly for you.

    1. Hi Robin! The caramel was to make an oak ice cream for Xmas dessert, it's a black china tea caramel swirled into the ice cream. Thanks so much for stopping by to comment! Happy holidays to you!


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