12.156 Roasted Capons (Not Actual Capons)

Cycle 12- Item 156

10 (Thu) June 2021

Roasted Capons (Not Actual Capons)


by me

at home

-Changgok, Sujeong, Seongnam, Gyeonggi, Republic of Korea-

with the Family

Newbery 100 Medals, 100 Meals (49) (see also 100 NEWBERY M&Ms)

While reading the 100 books that have been awarded the annual Newbery Medal since 1922, I will also attempt to create one dish for every book, a dish that is directly referenced in or indirectly inspired by the events of the book.  Food plays a strong role in many of the stories; not surprising as the characters in most of the books are faced with adversity of some sort, including poverty, so they’re often very hungry and thus grateful whenever they get a bite to eat – as we all should be at every meal (i.e., give us this day our daily bread).  The dishes will be featured as posts on Give Me This Day.

Adam of the Road (1943) by Elizabeth Janet Gray.  Set in 13th-century England, the book is about Adam, who wishes to follow both literally and figuratively in the footsteps of his father Roger, a famous wandering minstrel.  But when Adam’s dog is kidnapped, Adam embarks on a journey to rescue him, encountering various characters along the way.

It was fine.  Kinda fun, with bits of “minstrelsy” woven throughout, an interesting look into a bygone profession in a bygone time, as well as medieval English culture.  This would make a good trilogy along with The Midwife’s Apprentice (1996) (12.132 Some Pig Bones for a Stew) and Good Masters!  Sweet Ladies!  Voices from a Medieval Village (2008) (12.006 Three Herrings and a Loaf of Bread).

I enjoyed the part where Roger takes Adam to a cook shop, an early type of restaurant, which would’ve seemed extravagant to commonfolk.

[paraphrased in part]

Roger took Adam to the cook shop on the Thames near Botolph’s Wharf.  It was the most amazing place Adam had ever seen; it existed only to sell hot food to people who lived elsewhere.  There was a room with two long tables and benches, and at the end of it a wide opening into another room where furiously busy cooks ran to and fro against a background of blazing fires.  Roger led Adam to a place near a window and called for roasted capon.

A rather greasy-looking overgrown boy set a cup of ale and a small loaf of bread before each of them and went back to the kitchen.  Adam took his knife out of his wallet and prepared his bread carefully; first he cut the whole loaf in half, then he cut the top part in four, and put the pieces together as if they were whole, and turned the bottom half down to make a trencher for his meat.  Hungry as he was, he would not be so impolite as to touch bread or ale before his mat came, lest he should seem either starved or a glutton.

A capon is a rooster that has been castrated to improve the quality of its meat.  In theory, the absence of sex hormones allows the meat to become more tender and fatty, less gamey.  This is a popular practice in China and certain counties in Europe, such as France.  While capons date back to ancient times, I’d be surprised if they were sold in a common countryside cook shop in 13th-century England.

I went back to a recipe for casserole-roasting chicken from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which I had once proclaimed would become my default method (see 4.073 Poulet Poêlé à l’Estragon).

As capons are not available in Korea, as far as I’m aware, I used regular chickens, a pair of small ones.

This time, I had fresh tarragon, which is now produced and sold in Korea.

I wasn’t quite sure what Adam is described to do with his bread – in particular, the part about “turned the bottom half down to make a trencher for his meat” – so I just served baguette slices on the side to sop up the gravy.

It was excellent.

I declare again, even if in vain, that casserole-roasting shall be my default method.

Imagine a world in which we always had freshly prepared pan gravy for our fries.




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