Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Capon


The one holiday other than Christmas when the typical American family “gathers together to ask the Lord’s Blessings” to consume more calories at one meal than a total of three days is called Thanksgiving.

The essential quality of every holiday is tradition. Each family has its own, inherited through the generations, and the menu and flavors are both regional and familial. The common denominator of a successful holiday meal is that it tastes “like Grandma or Mama made it”. The truth is that Grandma and Mama may not have been such terrific cooks, but the remembrance is better than the reality, and nostalgia is always delicious. Turkey, however, has become available year-round and is no longer symbolic as once a year Thanksgiving fare. So, if you would like a change and feel gastronomically adventurous, you might want to treat your family to capon. The gourmet experience of capon is like no other poultry. The delicacy is due to the accumulation of fat, which is stored in successive layers in the muscles of these castrated and fattened young roosters. Although capon is more expensive than turkey, it offers considerable more white meat from a larger breast. Capon is roasted in the same manner as a large hen or roasting chicken or young turkey, but should have some form of citrus added during the cooking to cut the fat. Capon requires approximately 30 minutes per pound cooking time. Allow 30-45 minutes longer total cooking time if the capon is stuffed. And, remember to remove any left-over stuffing from the capon to a dish for safety.


6-8 pound Capon


Poultry seasoning

1 orange, sliced with rind

½ lemon, sliced with rind

1 small onion, peeled and sliced

1 rib celery, sliced

Optional: 1 whole clove garlic, peeled

Paprika to sprinkle

4 tablespoons butter

1 cup water or to cover bottom of roasting pan

1 tablespoon butter

Optional: Smuckers® Apricot Spreadable Simply Fruit

1 tablespoon all purpose flour

½ cup Madeira wine (or Marsala)

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.

2. Wash, dry and cut away excess fat from the capon. Sprinkle the cavity with salt. Pour some poultry seasoning into your hand and rub well into the cavity. Slice the orange and lemon and insert the slices into the cavity with the onion and celery (and garlic).

3. Sprinkle the outside with salt and paprika. (If you like a “zing”, use hot Hungarian paprika sparingly) Brush the skin with melted butter.

4. Set into a shallow roaster breast down. Add water to cover the bottom of the pan. Roast, uncovered, 20 minutes. Remove capon from the oven and turn breast side up. Sprinkle with paprika and brush with butter.

5. Reduce oven temperature to 325° and roast 30 minutes per pound, or until temperature reaches 165°F on a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast.

6. Optional: To glaze: The last 15 minutes of roasting, increase oven temperature to 375°F. Brush the skin with apricot jam.

7. Remove Capon to a platter. Cover lightly with foil and allow the capon to rest 15-20 minutes before carving for the juices to settle.

8. Combine the flour with the Madeira (or Marsala) wine. Stir in the gravy from the roasting pan. Bring to a boil, stirring, until thickened. Serve on the side in a gravy boat.


Yield: 4 Servings

2 cups stale French bread cubes

2 minced shallots

2 ribs minced celery

1 minced green pepper

¼ teaspoon ground thyme

1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

¼ pound melted butter

1 pint large oysters with their liquid

2 extra large eggs

1. Mix all ingredients with the melted butter and enough oyster liquid to bind. Stir in beaten eggs. Spoon into the cavity of a 6-8 pound capon, or spoon into a casserole dish to bake, covered, set into a pan of water, 1 hour.


4 garlic cloves, chopped

1 onion, chopped

2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon cumin powder

1 tablespoon coriander

3 tablespoons canned chopped green chilies

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro

¼ pound butter, melted

½ cup honey

1. Chop the garlic and onion and insert in the cavity of the capon.

2. Sprinkle the cavity with salt. Sprinkle salt over the skin.

3. Combine the cumin, coriander, chilies, cilantro, melted butter and honey in a blender. With your fingers, raise the skin up from the capon and push a thin layer of the mixture between the skin and the meat, reserving 1/3 cup.

4. Slow-roast the capon at 325°F. The last half hour brush the outer skin with the reserved marinade.

Or combine 1 tablespoon Fajita seasoning (McCormick or Williams Sonoma), 1 clove chopped garlic with 1 minced onion and 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro and insert the mixture into the cavity of the turkey. Combine 3 tablespoons Fajita seasoning with 2 cloves crushed garlic, 1 teaspoon chili powder and ¼ pound melted butter (or ¼ cup olive oil). Brush the skin heavily an hour before roasting.


3 cups chicken broth

Necks and gizzards of capon

1 rib celery, chopped coarse

1 onion, chopped coarse

1 whole clove

1 bay leaf

¼ teaspoon dried thyme

Liver from capon, if not used in stuffing

Drippings from the pan, after skimming off fat

¼ cup all-purpose flour

Optional: ½ cup chicken broth or white wine to finish

1. Combine the first 8 ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium. Cover the pot and cook 30 minutes. Add liver. Cook another 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Strain.

2. Skim off fat from the gravy in the roasting pan. Stir in flour and broth or wine. Combine with strained stock. Cook, stirring, until thickened.


Yield: 8 Servings

1 ½ pounds fresh cranberries

Grated rind of 2 oranges

2 oranges, peeled, seeded and quartered

2 cups sugar

2 cups water

6 ounces raspberry Jello®

1 envelope (tablespoon) Knox® unflavored gelatin

2 cups chopped walnuts (Optional: Most children do not like nuts)

1. Combine cranberries and oranges in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulverize.

2. Remove to a bowl and stir in sugar. Allow to sit, stirring several times, until sugar dissolves.

3. Combine the water with Jello® and gelatin. Bring to a boil, stirring.

4. Pour boiling mixture over cranberries and stir until blended. Cool 10 minutes. Pour into an oiled* 2 ½ quart mold. Refrigerate overnight.

* Pour a few drops of vegetable oil into the mold and rub around the bottom and sides.

To Serve: Run a knife around the inside surface of the mold and turn upside down on a platter. Allow to stand a few minutes before lifting. The mold should slide out easily.


Yield: 4 cups – Recipe may be doubled or tripled

2 pounds sweet potatoes (2 large)

¼ pound butter

½ teaspoon cinnamon

Optional: ? cup light brown sugar

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup tangerine juice

1 cup crushed pineapple

Optional, Chopped pecans

10 ounce package miniature marshmallows

1. Bake or microwave the whole potatoes until very soft. Cool and remove the skin.

2. Mash the potatoes with the melted butter, cinnamon, (brown sugar), salt, and tangerine juice. Beat with a wire whisk or hand-held electric beater until very smooth. Stir in pineapple.

3. Spoon into a baking dish. Sprinkle, if desired, with chopped pecans. Cover with aluminum foil. These 3 steps may be done several hours in advance.

4. Preheat oven to 350°F.

5. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until very hot. Remove foil. Cover the top of the pudding heavily with the marshmallows. Change the oven setting to broil. Set the pudding under the broiler for the marshmallows to brown. (Watch carefully so they do not burn)

Note: For a nice presentation and individual servings: See photograph: 6 ounce plastic cups were tightly filled with the mashed potatoes. Refrigerate several hours. Run a knife around the edge of the cup and turn upside down onto a baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes at 350°F. Remove and top with mini marshmallows. Set under the broiler to lightly brown.


Yield: 1 loaf

1 cup Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored (2 large apples)

¼ cup minced cranberries

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 full teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ cup butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

½ cup cold milk

¼ cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Mince apples and cranberries in a food processor, or chop fine by hand.

2. Sift together the flour, soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.

3. Beat butter and sugar until white and fluffy. Add the egg and apple-cranberry mixture. Add the flour mixture and the milk in thirds.

4. Spoon into a greased and floured or non-stick bread pan. Bake 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out “clean”.

This bread freezes beautifully. Recipe may be doubled- do not double soda.

Tune in Comcast channel 22 & BrightHouse 199 to watch host, Valerie Hart, interview chefs in their kitchens "The Back of the House", or watch it live on your computer at Follow her food page on Wednesdays in The Daily Commercial.

Restaurant safety


By Valerie Hart

Television host, Back of the House

A gentleman dining at Crewe, found quite a large mouse in his stew. Said the waiter, “Don’t shout and wave it about, or the rest will be wanting one too”. (Limerick)

Once upon a time we ate in restaurants without asking if the chef were wearing gloves or if beef and pork were dipped in the same flour before being deep fried. We lined up at buffets that didn’t have plastic sneeze guards. We picnicked on sandwiches and potato salad transported in a wicker basket. Savvy food people packed their repast in a cooler, unless the beer took up too much space. We knew, of course, not to consume raw oysters during months without an “r” in their spelling because the heat of the summer could make raw seafood dangerous. But, we ate our hamburgers rare and added a raw egg yolk to our skinny child’s milkshake for protein. And, we hid real hard boiled eggs for the children to gather at Easter, and threw out the one not accounted for when the family dog deposited it at our feet in July. There were occasions when we became ill, but the stomach ache was usually short-lived and unexplained. Was it our innocence that protected us most of the time or were we a heartier breed in the past?

My Father was a connoisseur of food and restaurant standards. When we entered a restaurant, he immediately disappeared to “wash his hands”. Several minutes later, he either ushered the family to their seats or looked at his watch and announced to the maitre d’, “I just remembered an appointment”. He knew that the condition of the bathroom reflected that of the kitchen.

The public has become very conscious of cleanliness and food safety. Outbreaks of salmonella, vibrio, anisakiasis, and hepatitis A are the most commonly known. Salmonella can be found in raw poultry and eggs. Vibrio can be found in raw shellfish. Anisakiasis is a worm found in raw fish and shellfish. Hepatitis A is a viral food-born illness spread through the feces of animals, in unwashed raw shellfish and raw vegetables, and found on unwashed hands of the food handlers. Proper hand washing in 100 degree water offers the best protection but foods suspected of having parasites, such as sushi, must be frozen to a minimum of 4 degrees Fahrenheit for seven days. Then, of course, there’s the powerful toxin, E-Coli, commonly associated with rare hamburgers and cross-contamination, but that can be found in everything from cooked sausages to cookies and that can live on counter surfaces for weeks. It’s a heavy responsibility that falls upon the restaurant.

Are gloves really the answer to safe handling? Not necessarily. If hands are not washed before putting on gloves, bacteria can seep through the glove. If wearing gloves replaces washing hands, the gloves can become just as dirty. Gloves must be changed as often as hands are washed, which is constantly, as the chef moves to different foods. When handled with bare hands, one is immediately aware of juices that transfer. This is not always the case with gloves. Gloves can provide a false sense of cleanliness. However, gloves should always be worn when working with and dishing up ready to eat ready to eat foods such as salads and ice cream. More and more states are mandating this into law along with the use of utensils to remove cooked food to serving plates.

The only jewelry that is allowed in a kitchen is a plain wedding band. Nail polish is a no-no. Finding Revlon Red in a salad is bad for the restaurant’s image. Hair should be covered or cut very short or tied back. There’s not a lot of information on the danger of finding a hair in the gravy, but it’s an appetite buster.

Cross contamination during the preparation and cooking is the cause of most food related illnesses. The buffet runs a close second, and it is not necessarily because of the food or the food handler in the kitchen, but the people who pass the serving utensils from hand to hand.

If all this has made you decide to stay home and eat in your own kitchen, have you checked your refrigerator lately? Is the temperature 40 degrees or lower? Are your meats, poultry, and fish in closed containers stored on the bottom shelf in case their juices drip and contaminate vegetables and fruit? Are your eggs stored in their original carton on the shelf or in the door where the warm air changes their temperature each time it is opened? How long have you left that chicken on the counter that you plan to cook for dinner? Do you wash and disinfect your cutting board (white vinegar works) after each use before placing new foods on it? Do you use the same sponge to wash the counter as your dishes? Most home kitchens would not begin to pass inspection. With these facts in mind, you may as well eat out and enjoy!

Tune in Comcast channel 22 & BrightHouse 199 to watch host, Valerie Hart, interview chefs in their kitchens "The Back of the House", or watch it live on your computer at Follow her food page on Wednesdays in The Daily Commercial.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Lemon or Lime meringue pie

The word, 'meringue', is said to have come from the city of Meiringen in the Emmen Valley in Switzerland where cruncy egg white cookies filled with chocolate cream were served after festive dinners. foreign guests who could not pronounce the name, 'meiringerli', changed it to meringues.

For the pie:
2/3 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups boiling water
7 jumbo or 8 extra large egg yolks
3/4 cup Key lime, Persian lime, or freshly squeezed lemon juice
Baked and cooled 10 inch pie crust

1. Sift the cornstarch with the sugar and salt into a 2 quart heavy pot or the top of a double boiler. Pour the boiling water in slowly, stirring with a wooden spoon until smooth, thick and creamy.
2. Beat the yolks with a whisk until blended. Slowly add some of the hot mixture to them. (This is an important step to keep the eggs from 'scrambling'). Stir mixture back into the pot and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until very thick. Stir in lime or lemon juice and continue stirring until mixture is thick and bubbly. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. Spoon into the baked pie crust and refrigerate until very cold.

7 jumbo or 8 extra large egg whites, room temperature or warmer
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cr. of tartar

1. Sift together the sugar, cornstarch and salt.
2. Beat the egg whites until foamy. Add cr. of tartar. Add sugar mixture a tablesoon at a time, beating on high speed until thick and glossy, approximately 5-6 minutes.
3. Cover the top of the pie with the meringue, bringing it up into peaks with a spoon. Or, pipe rosettes with a fluted tube. Place under the broiler to brown.

Note: The addition of cornstarch in the whites keeps them from 'weeping' when refrigerated.

Tune in Comcast Channels 22 & BrightHouse 199 to watch host, Valerie Hart, interview chefs in their kitchens in "The Back of The House" , or watch it live on your computer at Follow her food page on Wednesdays in The Daily Commercial.