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Jacques Pépin's Roast Capon and Red Wines for the Holidays

A spectacular recipe from the legend's new book, plus a list of recently rated Rhône reds

Laurie Woolever
Posted: December 16, 2011

The holiday season is in full swing, and to help you feed those hungry guests, we've got another great recipe from chef Jacques Pépin's new book, Essential Pépin: More Than 700 All-Time Favorites from My Life in Food. Last week it was side dishes and aromatic whites, and this week, it's the main event: a juicy roast capon with a rich and elegant Armagnac-mushroom sauce.

To pour alongside, we've provided a list of 15 recently rated Rhône reds whose red fruit and berry notes and full-bodied nature provide a pleasing counterpoint to the creamy sauce and the earthy mushrooms.

Roast Capon with Armagnac-Mushroom Sauce

This is a true special-occasion dish. Pépin explains, "Capons (neutered and fattened chickens) are available during the holiday season in many markets. They are moist, tender, succulent and well worth their extra cost."

• 1 pound mushrooms (domestic, wild or a mixture), cleaned and thinly sliced (about 7 cups)
• 1 cup dry white vermouth
• 1 cup chicken stock
• 1 capon (about 8 pounds)
• 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
• 1 1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
• 1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 2 tablespoons Armagnac
• 1 teaspoon potato starch (available in kosher section of supermarkets, or Asian specialty stores), dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.

2. Put the mushrooms in a saucepan with the vermouth and stock and bring to a boil, then cover, reduce the heat to low, and boil gently for 5 minutes. Set aside.

3. Season the capon inside and out with 1 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper and the herbes de Provence. Place the bird breast-side up in a roasting pan and roast it for 30 minutes. Turn it over and roast for 1 hour. Finally, turn the capon onto its back again and roast it for 20 more minutes. (An instant-read thermometer inserted into the joint connecting a thigh and drumstick should register about 160° F.) Transfer the capon to an ovenproof platter and keep it warm in a 160° F oven. (If you only have one oven, turn off the oven and leave the door open for about 5 minutes to cool down, then return the capon to the oven to keep warm.)

4. Skim off as much fat as possible from the drippings in the roasting pan. Pour the juices from the mushrooms into the pan and heat over high heat for a few seconds, stirring to melt the solidified juices, then pour the resulting glaze through a strainer set over the mushrooms. Add the cream and Armagnac to the mushroom mixture, bring to a boil and stir in the dissolved potato starch. Mix in the remaining 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and the tarragon.

5. Carve the capon and serve it with the sauce. Serves 8.

Recommended Rhône Reds

Note: The following list is a selection of outstanding and very good wines from recently rated releases. More Rhône reds can be found in our Wine Ratings Search.

ALAIN GRAILLOT Crozes-Hermitage 2009 Score: 92 | $32
Very lively, with mouthwatering acidity driving a host of lavender, iron, and bramble notes through dense raspberry and blackberry fruit. A sanguine note adds lovely, tangy length to the finish. Should rival the 2005 for best among recent vintages. Drink now through 2017. 6,500 cases made.—J.M.

DIONYSOS Côtes du Rhône-Villages Cairanne La Cigalette 2009 Score: 91 | $19
Nicely ripe, with a focused core of black cherry, raspberry and blackberry fruit judiciously layered with hints of sweet spice, anise and blueberry cobbler. The rounded finish is deceptively long, with a tobacco note flickering through. Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Carignane. Drink now through 2013. 5,000 cases made.—J.M.

LOUIS CHÈZE Syrah Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes 2009 Score: 90 | $20
This ripe red shows lovely focus to its racy Linzer torte and blackberry fruit, woven deftly with hints of white pepper and tobacco. Features a great, pure, stone-tinged finish. Drink now through 2012. 7,500 cases made.—J.M.

FERRATON PÈRE & FILS Crozes-Hermitage La Matinière 2009 Score: 90 | $24
Very solid, with a deliciously winey core of mulled black cherry, currant, pepper, maduro tobacco and iron all rolled together and then running through the juicy finish. Drink now through 2013. 13,000 cases made.—J.M.

ST.-COSME Côtes du Rhône 2010 Score: 90 | $16
This has lush, silky layers of dark plum, anise and crushed blackberry fruit, woven with black tea and graphite notes through the finish. Impresses with its length and depth. Drink now through 2012. 11,000 cases made.—J.M.

DOMAINE PÉLAQUIÉ Côtes du Rhône 2009 Score: 89 | $14
Ripe and fleshy, with mouthfilling black cherry and fig fruit liberally laced with tobacco and ganache. The plush finish has a tarry edge for added oomph. Drink now. 10,000 cases made.—J.M.

CAVE DE TAIN Syrah Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes Queen 2009 Score: 89 | $11
A fresh, pure style, with lots of violet, white pepper and black cherry aromas and flavors backed by a mouthwatering edge on the finish. Drink now. 15,000 cases made.—J.M.

LES VIGNERONS DE TAVEL Côtes du Rhône Les Acanthes 2010 Score: 89 | $12
Sleek and ripe, with dark currant and plum fruit backed by pastis and dark toast. Stays racy on the finish. Drink now. 10,000 cases made.—J.M.

VIGNOBLES LA COTERIE Côtes du Rhône-Villages Visan 2007 Score: 88 | $16
Bright and clean, with a beam of cherry and red currant fruit, followed by a licorice note on the rounded finish. Drink now. 15,000 cases made.—J.M.

CAVE DE TAIN Syrah Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes 2009 Score: 88 | $11
A forward, friendly style, with plump blackberry and black cherry fruit laced with hints of tobacco and light toast. Drink now. 15,000 cases made.—J.M.

VIGNERONS DE CARACTÉRE Côtes du Rhône A l'Ombre des Fontaines 2010 Score: 88 | $15
This delivers a mouthfilling core of plum sauce and Linzer torte, with enticing spice and anise notes bouncing through the finish. Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault. Drink now. 16,000 cases made.—J.M.

VIGNERONS DE CARACTÉRE Ventoux Les Amadous 2010 Score: 88 | $12
Alluring, with tobacco and dark olive aromas and flavors fronting for a core of crushed black cherry and currant fruit. A tobacco edge frames the finish. Grenache, Syrah and Carignane. Drink now. 40,000 cases made.—J.M.

LA COMPAGNIE RHODANIENNE Costières de Nîmes Domaine Cantarelles 2009 Score: 87 | $11
Very fresh and pure, with a delicious beam of crushed cherry fruit framed by floral and spice notes. Drink now. 10,000 cases made. —J.M.

VIGNOBLES LA COTERIE Ventoux 2010 Score: 87 | $10
Fresh and light-bodied, with a juicy edge to the plum, cherry and lavender notes, followed by a dash of pepper on the finish. Drink now. 10,000 cases made.—J.M.

KIRKLAND SIGNATURE Côtes du Rhône-Villages 2009 Score: 87 | $7
Very direct and juicy, with a core of dark fig and warm cherry preserves wound with hints of toast and spice. Drink now. 10,000 cases made.—J.M.

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