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Anne Burrell is inspired by French cuisine in episode 5 of Secrets of a Restaurant Chef, series 5.
Coat a large Dutch oven or rondeau with olive oil and bring to a medium high heat. Pat the capon dry and season generously with salt, to taste. Working in batches if necessary, coat the capon gently with flour and put IMMEDIATELY in the hot oil. Only flour the capon that you are working with in that batch- NO PREMATURE FLOURING! Premature flouring will result in doughy, gritty, mealy capon rather than crispy. Brown on all sides, then remove from the pan to paper towels. Remove any excess oil from the pan.
Add the bacon lardons to the pan with a tiny splash of new olive oil. Cook the bacon until it is brown and crispy. Add the diced celery onion, season with salt, to taste, and cook over medium heat until the veggies are starting to soften, are very aromatic and have no color, about 7 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms give off their juices, about 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the brandy and cook until it has reduced down (you can ignite it if you want - it's fun!). Add the tomato paste and stir to combine. The mixture will become very thick--that is good! Stir in the wine and bring the mixture to a boil and cook for 4 to 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil over medium heat. Toss in the cipollini onions, skin and all! Cook the onions for 3 to 4 minutes and then strain. When the onions are cool enough to handle, discard the skin and reserve.
Return the legs and thighs of the capon to the pan, reserving the breasts. Stir in enough chicken stock until the chicken is 3/4 covered. Add the thyme and bay leaves. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Taste for seasoning and adjust, if needed. Add the cipollini onions and the potatoes. Partially cover the pan and simmer for 20 minutes.
After the capon has simmered for 20 minutes, turn the legs and thighs over and add the breasts. Check the level of liquid and add more chicken stock, if needed. Partially cover the pan and simmer for another 15 minutes.
Remove the capon from the pan and skim the sauce, if necessary. If the sauce is on the thin side reduce it down until it becomes a sauce-like consistency. Add the reserved onions and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the capon to a serving platter, garnish with chopped chives and serve with lots of the sauce.
*This dish is traditionally made with an old rooster, since these are impossible to find a capon is a good substitute. Capons are extremely large birds and may also be difficult to find, so regular chicken may be substituted. If you wish to make a smaller amount, this recipe halves very easily.
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