|Orange slices. Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.com|
Take your capon and set him on the fire as before with marrow bones and mutton, and when you have skimmed the pot well, put thereto the value of a farthing loaf, and let it boil till it be half boiled. Then take two or three ladlesful of the same broth and put it into an earthen pot, with a pint of the same wine aforesaid. Peel six or eight oranges and slice them thin, and put them into the same broth with four pennyworth in sugar or more, and a handful of parsley, thyme and rosemary, together tied. Season it with whole mace, clove, and sticks of cinnamon, with two nutmegs beaten small. And so serve it.
-- Thomas Dawson, Good Housewife’s Jewel (1596).
Of course, you can't get capons in California these days, because the operation that creates them (emasculating a rooster) is illegal. Caponizing was a way of fattening up the extra roosters that weren't needed for the hens, capons tended to be bigger and fatter than hens, and it kept them from becoming as aggressive with other (un-caponized) roosters, when kept with the rest of the flock.
|ingredients for Capon with Oranges. Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.|
Here is what I did:
2 pieces (3-inches long) of beef marrow bones
1 pint of low-sodium chicken broth
1 pint of water
4 bone-in chicken thighs
1 slice white bread (crumbs only)
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
3 whole oranges, peeled and sliced
4 sugar cubes
2 sprigs each fresh thyme and rosemary
1 tsp. each ground mace and nutmeg
4 whole cloves
1 stick of Ceylon cinnamon, broken
salt and pepper
Put the marrow bones, water, and broth into the pan first, and bring to a boil to melt the marrow and get all the flavor from the bones, skimming any scum off the top of the broth as it rises. Remove the bones from the broth, scoop out the marrow, and add it back to the broth. Discard the bones. Place the chicken into the broth, and make sure it is covered in liquid. Bring to a gentle boil, and then reduce the heat to keep the broth at a bubble, for 30 minutes. Then, remove the chicken from the broth to a separate plate, and cover to keep warm. Bring the broth back to a boil, and add the spices, herbs, orange slices, wine, vinegar, and sugar. Boil for 10 minutes to infuse the broth with the flavor, and reduce it a little. Add the bread, torn into small pieces, to thicken the sauce further. After the 10 minutes, return the chicken to the pan with the sauce, and let it cook for another few minutes to re-heat the chicken and infuse it with the flavor of the sauce. Remove the chicken to a serving plate, remove the herb stems and the whole spices, pour the sauce over it, and garnish as desired. Serves 2 to 4.
|Capon (Chicken) with Oranges. Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.|
Despite the blandness of this variation of the dish, I still think it's a good one, and I hope to get my next attempt to have the punch of orange, spice, herb, and wine flavor that I think it should have.