Anyone who has had a brush with Shakespeare or watched a decent movie about The Middle Ages or Renaissance has heard the word “capon”. Only an unknown exotic term for most people. Maybe something Henry the Eighth ate too much of.
There’s no way around one big fact: it’s a castrated rooster. That was not done because the hen house needed a high tenor. It was done because it creates a much larger and flavorful roasted bird.
Why are they “rare” and a bit more expensive? Because they cannot be rushed to the slaughter, and once that is done, they must be frozen because only those who have tasted the difference realize its better than chicken and, to many, more succulent than turkey! So if you’ve had 20 turkeys in 20 years take a chance on capon. There he is, in the freezer at Mert’s. And remember, he gave up everything for you. That’s stretching it a bit, I know, but I have cooked it, it’s more than worth it. Here’s an easy recipe.
After thawing the capon, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Remove neck and giblets from inside the capon, then rinse it out with cold water. Using a paper towel, pat it dry and get ready to stuff it with:
2 lemons, cut in two; 1 onion cut into quarters; add 4 smashed garlic cloves; a sprig of rosemary or thyme; a few sage leaves or a bit of oregano.
Tie up the capon, legs crossed to keep the herbs in.
Rub the outside of the bird with this mixture:
1 soft stick of butter (1/4 lb); salt and pepper to taste; 2 teaspoons lemon juice; half a handful of herbs, fresh is best, from whatever you have of this group – parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, summer savory.
Now into the oven. Place the capon breast side down, into a V-rack in a roasting pan. This will make the skin more crisp and saves cleanup on the pan bottom. Pour water in the roasting pan to prevent the drippings from burning. Baste the bird with pan drippings.
Roast for 20 minutes then flip it over so that the breast is now up. Back into the oven, reducing the heat to 350 to 375 degrees F and roast until the thigh meat is internal temperature of 165 degrees F (do not touch the bone with the thermometer). Remember when you take him out to let him rest for 15 minutes. This is very important.
Meanwhile add some ice cubes to the poured off pan juices – this will make it easier to remove the fat. Add a half cup of sherry to the juices and make your gravy in the usual manner.
Shakespeare would be proud of you because there are more recipes for capon than there are actual capons. So call us ahead of time for your order.
by Alan Coe
Some things don’t change in fifty thousand years: you’ve gotten the call that there will be guests tonight and meat must be obtained. For high speed hunting and gathering, there is only one place that will work – Mert’s! With a plan you can be in and out in five minutes.
You pull into the lot, grateful that the human race no longer needs to obtain its meat with the aid of a sharp stick, so you can leave it in the trunk.
Entering, you are greeted and you quickly explain your hunting needs while gathering a few vegetables.
The folks behind the counter quickly agree upon choice of tonight’s prey: the flat iron steak.
It looks primal enough, but how do you cook it? Three minutes on each side for medium rare. That’s it. No marinating. Done! With boneless meat, a half pound per person is a good portion, but let’s go a little heavy. Whether or not your tokens are paper or plastics means little, the transaction is complete and you quickly make your way to the car.
Arriving home, you see that a few of your guests are already there waiting, but you are not worried. You’ve got this.
All you need to do in the kitchen is unwrap the steaks, dust them with rub (I use Montreal blend from McCormicks) and rewrap it to hold in the spices and to save a dish, while asking what refreshments your guests want.
After serving them a quick retreat to the fire pit of choice to prepare the coals, which will leave you with a good hour to socialize and re-establish tribal or inter-tribal bonds, as everyone is mesmerized by the fire you’ve made.
Then the heart of the matter – the flat irons are carried to the fire, still in their butcher paper, still a total mystery, until the magic moment when they are cast upon the grate. There will always be a few guests who have never seen the primal flat iron. The stop watch is ticking. Three minutes on a side, no more . . .
Then the steaks are quickly plated and taken back to the kitchen to rest for, let’s say, three minutes for simplicity, or, the time it takes you to dump out a box of salad greens, slice up a tomato and drain a jar of artichoke hearts, some tongs, some dressing, and there is your resting time – you are a genius!
“What’s the movie tonight?”, somebody asks as you plate up the meal for your guests. “I was thinking Quest For Fire” as you plan to bring up in conversation your pet theory that the discovery of cooking was the result of a forest fire.
Warning: Time Travel may result in a sharp increase in appetite!
by Alan Coe
Here is a list of Mert’s Ready To Cook Items currently. All of these are an hour or less to cook and get to the table.
1. Julia’s Parmesan Herb Meatballs – brown and then finish cooking in your favorite pasta sauce
2. Lamb Kafta – pan fry, grill or oven bake – no more than 12-15 minutes
3. Mediterranean Lamb Burgers – pan fry, grill or oven bake – no more than 15-20 minutes – great with a yogurt topping
4. Salmon Mustard & Dill Burgers – grill (on aluminum foil – very delicate) or oven bake
5. Herb Stuffing, Gorganzola Cheese, Dried Cranberry Stuffed Chicken Breast – oven bake at 350 for about an hour (45 minutes covered, 15 minutes uncovered) internal temp should be about 180 – big enough for two
6. Bacon & Bleu Cheese, Herb Stuffing, Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Chicken Breast – oven bake uncovered at 350 for about an hour – internal temp should be about 180 – big enough for two
7. Spinach and Feta Cheese Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Chicken Breast – oven bake uncovered at 350 for about an hour – internal temp should be about 180 -big enough for two
8. Twice Baked Potatoes – Shirley’s favorite! oven bake at 350 uncovered for 20 minutes – we make these ourselves!
9. Herb Stuffing, Gorganzola Cheese, Dried Cranberry Stuffed Pork Tenderloins – oven bake at 325 covered for about 20 minutes and then uncovered for about 10 minutes. Internal temperature should be about 145
10. Bacon & Bleu Cheese Ground Chuck Patties – grill, pan fry, or oven bake
11. Cheddar & Bacon Ground Chuck Patties – grill, pan fry, or oven bake
12. Jalapeno & Cheddar Ground Chuck Patties – grill, pan fry, or oven bake
13. Pepper Jack Ground Chuck Patties – grill, pan fry, or oven bake
14. A freezer full of Seasoned Ultimate Burger patties – the list is long!
Following are Mert’s Ready To Eat Items. Some are just open and eat – others are heat and eat:
1. Smoked Chicken Salad – great as an appetizer on crackers. Shirley loves it on flat bread as a sandwich.
2. Smoked, Fully Cooked Pork Baby Back Ribs – heat in oven at 325 on rack with water underneath for about 20 minutes – if you want BBQ sauce, after the 20 minutes, brush on BBQ sauce on one side – allow to carmelize (about 5-7 minutes) then turn over and brush on BBQ sauce on the other side and allow that to carmelize (about another 5-7 minutes). Finger licking wonderful! The meat just falls off the bones!
3. Smoked, Fully Cooked Meat Sticks – several varieties – great with Mike’s Mustards or other “hot” mustards that we carry.
4. Smoked, Fully Cooked All Natural Pulled Pork – heat and then eat on flat bread, or pretzel rolls, or on French baguette bread – if you want BBQ sauce, add to it on the sandwich. Also makes a great enchilada!
5. Smoked, Fully Cooked Weiners – plain and cheddar bacon – heat and eat! Brown on the grill or under the broiler – but just to get heated through – they’re already cooked! Add your favorite toppings. These are 1/4 pounders! One is enough for most people!
The question is: When you freeze meat, does it take away the flavor or texture of it?
When freezing meat for a short amount of time – days or just a couple of weeks, in freezer paper or vac packs – the product stays pretty stable and the flavor should be fine – the texture should not be compromised during that short amount of time.
If you keep meat or seafood in loose packaging like a resealable plastic bag or just plain plastic wrap for a very long amount of time – months – the product can get “freezer burnt”. The product dries out and it appears to be burned – the texture of the meat is more pronounced and you will get an old taste to it. Even vac pack bags will lose their seal as time goes on and that will allow the product to get burnt also.
The frostless freezers that we have now pretty much sucks the moisture out of everything in it as it defrosts itself and then freezes again. Notice if you have an ice maker and you have some ice cubes that are a week or more old – aren’t they smaller than ones that were just made a few days ago? The freezer causes it to lose moisture and substance. The same happens to anything that is in the freezer. How many times have you gone to get a bag of green beans and they are all shriveled up and freezer burnt?
Here at Mert’s we’re not proponents of freezing good cuts of meat, but we know that not everybody can shop every day for their meal items. Always use anything that you freeze within 4-6 weeks and ensure that it is well packaged and tightly sealed. Anything after that and it is going to start to deteriorate from just the freezer doing its job. Even some freezer plastic containers can’t stand up to being frozen for that long.
Now the next question is . . . can you refreeze something after it has been thawed?
Products can be frozen, thawed, and re-frozen without ill effects to humans; however, with that being said – the product has to be in good condition through all of this. Garbage in, garbage out is the old adage – if you freeze something that is bad, you’ll thaw something that is bad. Refreezing does not make the product harmful or poisonous, but it can affect the quality of the product and the taste of it.
Beef short ribs look beautiful, but they can be chewy and tough if not prepared correctly. They like to be braised – which means they like to be cooked in liquid. We know that slow cookers use liquid to cook whatever is in it, but you can cook on top of the stove, very low and covered, or in the oven in a Dutch oven. Grilling is not a method that we would recommend for short ribs, as they need the slow cooking to tenderize enough to fall off the bones. I remember as a child my mother used a pressure cooker to cook short ribs – pressure cookers are coming back into popularity among the foodies because they shorten the cooking time substantially. Following is a recipe from Curt Hanes, one of our customers, who shared his favorite short rib recipe shortly after we opened.
Red Wine Short Ribs
2 cups dry red wine 2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 packet dry au jus gravy mix 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
8 shallots, halved 8 beef short ribs
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley (optional)
In a 6 quart slow cooker (or equal size Dutch oven), whisk together the red wine, tomato paste, gravy mix, salt, pepper and thyme; add the shallots.
Add the ribs, placing the meatiest side down. Cover and cook until the meat is very tender, on low 8 to 10 hours, or on high 4 to 6 hours in the slow cooker. Cook in the oven in the Dutch oven at 325 degrees F for 4 to 5 hours, or until the meat separates from the bones.
Transfer the ribs to a plate. Using a ladle or a spoon, skim and discard fat from the sauce. Spoon the de-fatted sauce over the ribs and sprinkle with the parsley if desired.
On the NBC News this week, they talked about injected chicken and how some chickens contain 10% and more salt solution and phosphates to enhance flavor.
Mert’s carries only all natural chicken that has not been frozen and has not been injected; furthermore, we do not and have never carried pork, beef or other products that have been injected or enhanced. Our meats are all natural and do not contain additives.