Makes:6 to 8 servings
Capons are just castrated roosters. A fattening diet and early slaughter leaves their flesh succulent and well-suited to roasting. They range in size from 8 to 11 pounds, making them the perfect in-between bird when a roaster chicken is too small and a turkey too big.
What to buy: Capons can usually be found in the freezer section of specialty markets or online.
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves
2 teaspoons orange zest (from 1 medium orange)
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium garlic head, cut in half horizontally
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
2 cups dry sherry
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (from 1 medium orange), flesh and rind reserved
Heat the oven to 375°F and arrange a rack in the lower third. Remove the capon from the refrigerator, discard the neck and giblets, and let the bird sit at room temperature for 45 minutes.
Rinse the capon with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Combine 1 teaspoon of the salt, 6 tablespoons of the butter, the sage, orange zest, and fennel seeds in a small bowl and mix until evenly incorporated. Season the cavity and outside of the bird with the remaining 2 teaspoons salt and all of the measured pepper. Carefully loosen the skin from the breast and thighs, making sure not to tear it. Evenly spread the herbed butter under the skin. Rub the olive oil all over the outside of the capon and place the garlic and reserved orange flesh and rind inside the cavity. Tie the legs together with butcher’s twine and tuck the wings back and underneath.
Coat a roasting rack with oil (any kind) and place it inside a roasting pan. Place the capon, breast side up, on the rack. Pour the chicken broth and water into the roasting pan. Roast the capon until the internal temperature of the thigh reaches 170°F, about 2 1/4 to 2 3/4 hours. Remove to a cutting board and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes before carving.
Meanwhile, pour all the drippings from the roasting pan into a heatproof measuring cup. When the drippings settle, skim off the fat (alternatively, you can use a fat separator) and discard. Place the roasting pan across two burners over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon of the reserved drippings, and heat until sizzling. Add the sherry and orange juice and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a flat spatula. Simmer until the alcohol smell cooks off, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining drippings and simmer until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer and discard the solids. Season with salt and pepper. Serve alongside the capon.