Rotisserie capons with chestnut stuffing. It just sounds like Christmas, doesn’t it? When I saw it mentioned in Canal House Cooking, I knew what I was making for the holidays this year.
Now, I’ve never cooked a capon before. Capons are roosters that are…um…fixed, as a veterinarian would say. The result is a big, lazy bird that grows nice and plump – the average size of a capon is eight pounds. It’s the right size bird if you need something larger than a chicken, but smaller than a turkey.
Now, for the stuffing. My hero, Alton Brown, said that stuffing a bird is evil. By the time the stuffing is cooked to a safe temperature, the bird around the stuffing is wildly overcooked. I solved this with a trick from Cooks Illustrated – preheat the stuffing in the microwave. The stuffing is hot when it goes into the bird, and the meat doesn’t overcook.
Then came my next problem. Rotisseries and stuffing are not a good combination. I stuffed the bird, trussed it tight, and turned on the rotisserie. As the bird rotated, the stuffing worked its way out of the cavity and fell into the drip pan. The result was an empty bird and a pan full of burned stuffing.
I thought of trying a stuffing bag, but I didn’t think I’d be able to get the rotisserie spit through the tough cotton. Then I saw Kenji Alt’s idea of using cheesecloth to make a stuffing bag. Perfect! Cheesecloth has a very loose weave, leaving gaps for the point of the rotisserie spit to push through. As a bonus, the bag of stuffing is easy to pull out of the bird and pop in the microwave for pre-heating.
Now, a stuffed bird doesn’t hold enough for a crowd. I could only get a few cups of stuffing in the cavity. No worries – I made a batch of stuffing, filled the bird with as much as I could, and put the rest in a spare drip pan. I cover the pan with foil so the stuffing steams as it cooks; I cut slits in the foil so the drippings can flavor the stuffing. When everything is done cooking, I mix the stuffing that was absorbing the capon juices from the cavity with the stuffing in the pan, so everyone gets a taste.
Recipe: Rotisserie Capon with Chestnut Stuffing
Adapted From: Canal House Cooking Vol 7, La Dolce Vita
Cooking time: 2 hours
- Grill with Rotisserie attachment (I used a Weber Summit with an infrared rotisserie burner. Here is the current version of my grill.)
- 2 aluminum foil drip pans (9″x13″x2″ deep)
- 1 foot by 1 foot square of cheesecloth
- Butcher’s twine
- 1 (8 pound) capon
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick)
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- 4 ounces diced pancetta (or prosciutto or bacon)
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 teaspoons kosher salt
- 10 ounces vacuum packed peeled chestnuts, chopped into large chunks
- 1 teaspoon minced rosemary
- 1 pound dried bread cubes (look for the bags in the bakery of your local grocery store)
- 1/2 cup minced parsley
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1. Dry brine the capon
Season the chicken with the salt, inside and out. Gently work your fingers under the skin on the breast, then rub some of the salt and pepper directly onto the breast meat. Refrigerate for at least two hours, preferably overnight. One hour before cooking, remove the capon from the refrigerator, and let it rest at room temperature.
2. Saute the aromatics
Melt the butter in a large frypan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, pancetta, raisins, and garlic, then sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Saute until the onions are soft, about five minutes. Stir in the chestnuts and rosemary, and cook for one more minute.
3. Mix the stuffing
Put the bread and parsley in a large mixing bowl. Scrape the chestnut mix from the frypan into the bowl, then stir until evenly mixed. Pour in the chicken stock, add the salt and pepper, and stir until all the bread is damp.
4. Stuff the capon
Line the cavity of the capon with the cheesecloth, then spoon in the stuffing, packing it in as tight as you can. Tie off the end of the cheesecloth and trim any extra cheesecloth or twine. Pull the cheesecloth-wrapped stuffing pouch out of the capon. (Click here for trussing instructions.) Set the pouch on a microwave safe plate. Pour the rest of the stuffing into one of the foil pans. Cover the pan with a sheet of aluminum foil, crimp it around the edges to seal, then cut slits in the foil so the capon drippings can drip through into the stuffing.
5. Set up the grill for indirect medium heat
Set the grill up for indirect medium heat (350°F) with grates removed and the second (empty) drip pan in the middle of the grill. On my Weber Summit, I remove the grates, then preheat with all the burners set to high for 15 minutes. Then turn burners 1 and 6 down to medium, turn off all the other burners, and put the drip pan in the middle of the grill. Finally, I turn on the infrared rotisserie burner and set it to medium.
6. Re-stuff, truss, and spit the capon
While the grill is pre-heating, put the plate with the pouch of stuffing in the microwave and cook until it measures 180°F in its thickest part, about 5 minutes. Use kitchen tongs to re-insert the bag of stuffing in the capon. Fold the wingtips underneath the wings, then truss the capon. Skewer the capon on the rotisserie spit, forcing the point through the cheesecloth at the center of the bag of stuffing. (Aim the spit just below where you tied the cheesecloth together.) Secure the capon to the spit with the spit forks.
7. Cook the capon and the stuffing
Put the spit on the grill, start the motor spinning, and make sure the drip pan is centered beneath the capon. Cook with the lid closed for 1 hour. Then, replace the drip pan with the pan full of stuffing, pouring any drippings in the pan onto the sheet of aluminum foil covering the stuffing; it will drip through the slits into the stuffing. Close the lid and cook for another 30 minutes. At that point, remove the foil from the top of the pan of stuffing and check the capon. The capon is done when it measures 155°F in the thickest part of the breast; the stuffing is done when it is browned and crispy on top and measures 150°F in its thickest part. Both should take 15 to 30 more minutes, for a total cooking time of about two hours.
Remove the capon from the rotisserie spit and remove the twine trussing the capon. Wear heat resistant gloves or oven mitts – the spit and forks are blazing hot. Carefully remove the pan of stuffing from the grill. Pull the bag of stuffing from inside the capon, cut the bag open, and stir it into the pan with the rest of the stuffing. Let the capon rest for 15 minutes, then scoop the stuffing into a serving dish, carve the capon, and serve.
- You need a really big bowl for step 2; if your bowl is overflowing, start with half the bread cubes, the onion/chestnut aromatics, and half the stock. Stir, and the bread will shrink; then add the rest of the stuffing.
- As you can see in the pictures, I cooked two birds. I stuffed them both, and used an extra drip pan under the second bird, with a pan full of drip pan potatoes.
- I buy bags of dried bread cubes from the bakery in my local grocery store. This bag had a mix of different breads, including one that looked like a cranberry or raisin bread, which added a nice flavor to the stuffing. If that sounds good to you, add a half cup of raisins or dried cranberries to the pan with the chestnuts.
What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
|Check out my cookbook, Rotisserie Grilling.|
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