Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Thanksgiving Leftovers

Capon - otherwise known as a neutered cockerel
I don't typically blog about the big family meals. I figure there is something special, sacred even, when I sit down to dinner with family and friends. As much as a Rockwellian image of a roast bird and all the fixings surrounded with keen and impatient family diners would be just capital - I didn't pull out the camera.

It is my mind's eye that captures these moments.  

As I approach 40, I find holidays provide a very poignant dynamic in the sense that I feel I am creating memories and traditions for my children. There is a comforting, almost reassuring feeling that comes with the sound of the kids impatiently clattering their utensils at the table while I'm in the kitchen sorting out the gravy.

In my home, instead of Turkey, I typically roast a capon. There's nothing wrong with turkey per se, but they are rather large birds. Moreover, without being inventive and disciplined in the roasting process, the result is almost guaranteed to be dry. A capon is a large castrated rooster. More succulent than turkey and small enough that the leftovers never become tiring, I'm really surprised this animal does not grace more tables in Canada.  Seen as a delicacy in England since medievel times, the capon gets several mentions in Shakespeare including these words:

Wherein is he good, but to taste sack and drink it?
Wherein neat and cleanly, but to carve a capon and eat it?

To sum up, the Thanksgiving day ritual was as wonderful as I had hoped for.  A chilly afternoon, a crackling fire and a late afternoon meal that included plenty of wine and a table that was positively groaning with good food. What brings me to writing however is not the meal itself (for which I have already spilled enough ink), but what I did with the leftovers.

A capon carcass is a wondrous thing. I took said carcass, along with a few bay leaves, a few dried porchini mushrooms, one or two whole peppercorns, some parsley stalks and a roughly chopped carrot and got it all into my pressure cooker with enough water to cover everything. I also added a few star anise. I have found that this spice can create a  miraculously sophisticated base note to any stock. You don't so much as taste the star anise as the proteins from the bones are enhanced. In any event, a short 35 minutes in the pressure cooker created a most luxurious broth. Strain it all out and then add some leftover meat along with some small soup-friendly pasta. At the last minute toss in a goodly pile of winter micro-greens, season to taste and serve hot. An amazing, warm and restorative pottage.

The other dish I created from the leftovers was the classic bubble & squeak. There really isn't much to this dish. I took the leftover butternut squash, the bread and sausage stuffing, chopped up sugarsnap peas and started squelching it all together in a large mixing bowl. Crack in an egg or two and form into small cakes. I dusted them with flour and fried them off in some olive oil. Serve with re-heated leftover gravy and cranberry sauce.

Thanks be indeed.

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