BRUSSELS, Belgium — Although Italian festive fare varies around the regions, Christmas Eve usually involves a succession of fishy dishes, with a prominent part played by eel — fried, stewed, steamed or baked. Christmas Day lunch will be a long family affair that will run though pasta dishes like lasagne or tortellini in brodo before a big roast. Lamb raised on the hills around Rome is a popular choice in the capital.
Elsewhere, many prefer a stuffed and roast capon — a typical stuffing could include minced pork, veal sausage, chestnuts, Granna Padano cheese, bread, milk, Marsala wine, olive oil, eggs, nutmeg and pepper.
To finish the meal, Milan's raisin-filled panettone cakes have become a nationwide favorite.
4.5 lb capon
1 stalk celery
half cup Marsala wine
1 cup broth
Remove the capon’s head, feet and giblets, singe the bird, rinse and dry it, then wrap it in a few slices of both fat and lean ham, keeping the slices in place with kitchen string.
Use an oval saucepan big enough to amply accommodate the capon and lay a few lard slices on the bottom. Add 2 oz of butter, one celery stick finely chopped, a carrot diced finely, a sprig of thyme, a few marjoram leaves and a bay leaf.
On this aromatic bed, lay the capon, pour half a glass of Marsala wine and a cup of stock over it, then season with salt to taste. Cover the pan with aluminum foil, then place the lid on top to seal it, and cook for about an hour over a medium heat.
Once the bird is cooked, gently take it out of the pan, remove the ham slices, the string, and keep warm. Spoon out the fat from the pan and remove the lard slices. Pour the cooking juice through a colander pressing the herbs with a wooden spoon, and pour all the juice into a small saucepan.
Put it on the heat and boil for a few minutes, then thicken it by adding a couple of teaspoons of potato starch, dissolved in a bit of water; and stir until nicely thick. Blend a small truffle finely sliced and a knob of butter into the sauce.
Pour the sauce over the bird which you have returned to the saucepan. Put the pan over the heat and allow the capon to flavor for a few more minutes. Arrange the capon (obviously cut into pieces and reassembled) on a serving tray and serve hot with mashed carrots.