Poultry in restaurant menus – capon and hen delicacies

Whilst chicken is a common ingredient in household menus due to its easy preparation and universal culinary language, the finest hen and capon delicacies are often overlooked. Gourmet specialties ranging from perkelt, stew to peka make an ideal choice when the weather turns cold and grim.

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Capon meat is commonly bred at family farms and it’s best when you get your hands on an organically raised one. Capon is a generic term that was used to denote rooster meat, while nowadays it’s usually called pivac, especially in Dalmatia. Capon is a castrated rooster raised for its meat. When compared to hens, its taste is more intense and it possesses exceptional culinary predispositions. Culinary archives across Europe abound in capon recipes as it goes great with wine and dried winter fruit. If prepared well, its meat has a gamey taste.

The small village of Konjevrate in the Dalmatian Hinerland is located near Šibenik and it’s where you’ll find family tavern Vinko. They’re keeping centuries-old recipes from fading into oblivion. Traditional winter dishes of the Dalmatian Hinterland are top meat delicacies because you have to make it through the bora. Aside from classic pork dishes, intriguing capon recipes stand out. Waiter Slaven Palinić told us more about the latter. They make clear capon and beef soup, capon baked under peka and spit-roasted capon. First things first.

Capon baked under peka is prepared just like any dish baked under peka. The capon is baked with carrot, potatoes, apple, onions and pork lard, which is mandatory. We add an apple because it gives the meat a special taste and tenderness. You need to kindle a blazing fire to prepare spit-roasted capon. Usually we use hornbeam or oak wood. It takes an hour and a half to roast the capon. It takes a true ember master to be able to look after it, turn the meat around if need be so that it’s roasted on all sides and all the flavours are preserved. When the capon is done, it’s served with sauerkraut seasoned with olive oil, garlic and pepper. Capon meat has a more pungent flavour and it’s very delicious, especially if the capon was raised organically. Luckily, there are plenty of local producers.

For a number of years now Međimurje has been positioning itself as one of Croatia’s most popular culinary destinations with family restoran Mala Hiža definitely ranking high on the list. They prepare quite a few autumn specialties and there’s an interesting capon dish. Restaurant manager Tanja Tomašić Hat walked us through the preparation.

We prepare oven-baked capon with buckwheat porridge, red wine and penny buns. The night before the capon is placed in a marinade consisting of salt, pepper, laurel leaf, a bit of oil and rosemary. First you put just the capon in the oven for about two and a half hours. Buckwheat porridge is prepared separately after which it’s sautéed in onion and penny buns. While baking the capon, we constantly add red wine. We use the Pinot noir. We add the buckwheat porridge with penny buns fifteen minutes before the capon is done so that all of the flavour merge. As a side dish we serve torn noodles with bacon or vanjkuše (similar to ravioli) stuffed with cheese and spinach and boiled with sour cream and bacon.

Family restaurant Kameni Dvori is located in Konavle in Dubrovnik’s hinterland at the very south of Croatia. In addition to numerous specialties and desserts, they prepare an ancient recipe they call Dalmatian-style hen. Restaurant owner Nika Mujo told us how they prepare the dish.

First we cut up the hen into the standard parts, namely, the legs, thighs and breast which is sliced into several chunks. Then we sauté onions in oil, we add some chopped parsley and garlic. We slice the carrots into larger chunks and add the meat and let it all simmer in the pot. We also add some tomato paste. While cooking, we used about half a litre od red wine per hen. We use our own Merlot wine. When the hen is half ready, we add a handful of prunes and dried figs. Everything is then served with ribbon-shaped noodles or polenta. 

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