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Day 4 of French regional Christmas specialities: Chapon farci

Chapon farci are often associated with Bresse, an area overlapping two regions, and where there is a myriad of stuffing options

Chapon farci is another of France’s very common Christmas meals Pic: Galina Gutarin / Shutterstock

Every day from December 1-12, The Connexion will be sharing a French regional Christmas speciality. Today we look at chapon farci.

What is chapon farci?

Chapon farci is a capon (a type of chicken - typically a neutered male chicken carefully fed so it becomes plumper) with a selected stuffing, as its name suggests. 

It is usually associated with Bresse, a French area that sits between Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, and which is historically known for its poultry production. 

People in the region have traditionally eaten fattened capons during celebrations since at least 1591, according to historical documents cited by Dijon Beaune Mag.

The region even developed its own agriculture show in the late 19th century, in which the best two capons were sent to Napoleon III. This helped to boost the capon to nationwide fame. 

Capons from Bresse are nowadays protected with an Appellation d'Origine Protégée (AOP;  geographical protected status). The Bresse Gauloise is the only breed acknowledged by the AOP volaille de Bresse.

Capons are known for their delayed growth, and they reach their full size in around nine months.

How do you cook it? 

Chapon farci is one of France’s most common Christmas meals, and there are many variations of stuffing.

One of the most iconic French cooking shows, La cuisine des mousquetaires - which features French celebrity chef Maïté - recently featured a segment dedicated to the chapon farci. Chef Maïté chose to stuff the capon with foie gras

Maïté’s iconic chapon farci included armagnac, smoked ham, foie gras from a duck, onions, shallots, and fat and butter for cooking. 

The result was a highly calorific but very ‘terroir’ (geographically typical) recipe. 

The stuffing was made of ground smoked ham, shallots, and onions, with ‘a dash’ of Armagnac (see video), before being seared in a pan with fat. 

The stuffing needs to be cooked a bit in advance to avoid being undercooked once inside the capon, Maité warned.

The capon is then stuffed with the mixture, and foie gras cut in cubes is added, along with salt and pepper seasoning, before cooking.
Maité cooked the capon on a spit for more than an hour, but three to four hours are necessary in a normal oven. 

There are many varieties of stuffing, however, and ideas have spread across many cooking websites and specialised newspapers. Stuffing options include mushrooms such as oyster mushrooms or morels; chestnuts, white boudin, or even apples.

Capons remain an expensive product, and newspapers often suggest other alternatives for Christmas. These might include poularde (an older, fatter chicken) or turkey in lieu of a capon.

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