Pularda, capon, chicken, turkey … What bird to choose to roast on New Year’s Eve and how to cook it (with the advice of chef Mario Vallés)

Pularda, capon, chicken, turkey … What bird to choose to roast on New Year’s Eve and how to cook it (with the advice of chef Mario Vallés)

Christmas recipes are loaded with roasts and, of all of them, white birds play a primary role. On these dates we make a little more economic effort and buy somewhat more expensive and tasty products.

From chicken and turkey we go to capon, pularda or guinea fowl, but we can also go directly to free-range chicken, duck or to search more powerful options like pheasants and even geese.

Filled or unfilled; boneless or boneless or taking advantage of sous vide cooking, the world of roast poultry is not so complex if we pay attention to certain tricks. In addition, it is quite attractive, it allows us to get out of roasts that are too powerful and we can also tune them to our liking.

Fortunately, today we are not alone to help us in this task of how to deal with roast poultry. Mario Vallés, chef of the restaurants Hydrangea Y Daffodil, specialized in French cuisine – not French – gives us some clues to stop our winged friends.

Pularda, capon, guinea fowl, chicken … How to choose our bird?

The capon is the most balanced meat, partly lean and fat, as well as the kindest for long cooking.

There are, necessarily, more difficult and less birds. The difficulty is not only going to come from the size, but also by the amount of fat that the animal has or by the toughness of its own meat. Let us bear in mind that, even being a farm, these animals live longer and move more than the traditional chicken that we buy.

First, buy with your head and control quantities. “With more food on the table, with a capon or a 2.5 kilos poulede for four or six people It’s enough, “explains the Colombian chef. He also considers going a little bigger depending on the options.


The thigh of the poularde is relatively hard, so be patient with it in the oven.

“The capons usually have an almost standard size. With one of 3.5 kilos it is fine because the next day it is also very good for lunch,” he clarifies for those quantities that go from four to six people.

It also explains the nuances of thinking if we are going to fill them or not, so that we take into account the total weight and the ease of handling. “Small birds bone worse and it is more difficult to fill them later,” he clarifies.


“For me it is the king of roast birds for Christmas because it has a very nice infiltrated fat in the meat and then it has a more special flavor, something stronger than poultry. In addition, in cooking it behaves very well because it does not dry out, “he explains.

In his case, he cooks it in a vacuum for 12 hours at 60º centigrade, being a fundamental dish in their deliveries Christmas, in addition to serving it stuffed. “It’s a tad more expensive as an animal, but it’s worth it,” he explains.

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To do this, “I bone it and with its meat I make a sham in which I mix pork, capon itself, dried apricots and raisins hydrated in Pedro Ximénez “. From there he passes it under vacuum and cooks it for twelve hours. After cooking, to recover color,” you put it in the oven at 200º for 10 minutes and make a sauce with the juice that is in the bag “, he clarifies.

Logically, if at home we do not have vacuum machines or you want, we can face the oven without problems. In this case, Mario Vallés advises “to tie the capon well with thread and needle so that the filling does not escape and, above all, that the filling does not have much liquid because it would escape more easily”, he emphasizes.

In the event that we go to the oven pure and hard, three hours of cooking will be enough to cook a capon of about four kilos. Generally one hour for every kilo of meat will suffice, but three hours at 180º is enough.


“I prefer large poulards, for flavor and handling, of about four kilos or 4.5 kilos,” he adds. In any case, it clarifies that it is not a bird for novices. “The thigh of the poularde is drier and harder than that of a capon, I perceive it, and it needs much more fat in the thigh “, he emphasizes.

“However, the breast of the poularde has much more fat in the skin and in the meat,” he explains. For him, a good option is that we do the pularde in two stages. “I prefer work their legs in a cannelloni, after confit and crumble them. Then you make it a casserole of chestnuts, sweet potato and apple, and roll it up with a pasta dough or a wonton dough, “he explains.

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If we bet on the oven, do not lose sight of it. “It is a bird where you have to be aware and constantly sprinkling the thigh with the own fat that is released in the oven “, he explains. In addition, for a small puff (2.5 kilos) it offers times.

“A cooking of an hour and a half over 180º centigrade is enough, or give it two temperatures“He advises.” First a cooking at 145º or 150º on the side of the breasts and then another half hour, already at 180º or 190º centigrade, so that the golden color is achieved, “he suggests.


They can be the usual chickens of the supermarket, it can also be a free-range chicken or we can, if there are few of us, go to the spicy chicks. “The spicy chicken at a Christmas dinner is very good for two people. You make them individual and each chicken comes out for two people when you cut it in half,” he explains.

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The filling, the similar one, in this case recommends “canned sweet corn, in addition to pork, the meat of the picantón itself, as well as a little bit of bacon and pieces of foie because they help hydrate the picantón “, he explains.


“It is a very good bird for Christmas, but it is also more complicated to work because it is also closely linked to hunting“, he comments.” It is not difficult, but it does require being more attentive when cooking, “he explains.

“It is leaner, has little fat infiltration and the meat is somewhat darker, a little stronger and has more character,” he lists. “It is very rich in flavor and it will also come in handy for small houses [una pintada no suele superar los dos kilos de peso]”, specify.

“If we go to the oven, we have to fill it a little, with fruits and some fat such as bacon or foie,” he says. Of time, barely an hour and a half and with the same dynamic that we said in the capon: first a lower heat to 140º or 150º and then finish to brown at 180º.

In any case, Mario Vallés recommends that we consume the stuffed poularde and after boning in a ballotine (This is how this technique is known) or that we bet on grilling the breasts because they are very tasty.


“It seems like a difficult bird to me because it is very large and does not have a lot of fat. Also, I consider it relatively bland. I don’t like to cook it, but I understand that it is also a very Christmas option, “he explains.

In this case, it is also not recommended to cook it because “it takes many hours” and because “times are very different between thigh and breast, which is generally very dry, “he laments.

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In any case, if we bet on a roast turkey, there is certain keys not to overdry it. The best, cover it with aluminum foil so the moisture doesn’t evaporate so quickly and we don’t toast it too much before serving.

In addition to that, it should be cooked in the lower part of the oven and we can also apply many of the keys that Carmen Tia Alía suggests to us so that it comes out perfect as make a brine to salt it, inject liquids in different places or that the filling is well hydrated.

Garnishes and fillings for roast poultry

roasted sweet potato

Sweet potatoes and sweet fruits work well as a filling or garnish for roast poultry.

Let’s think about the season and we will have the answer to how to accompany our roast birds. You will do well sweet nuances, the creamy sauces and also those ingredients that help us to give texture to the rest of the dish.

In addition, it is essential that we do not waste animal bones, especially those that we have used clean. “If we have deboned any bird, we toast its bones in the oven. A little, one hour is enough at 120º Celsius and then We deglaze it with white wine in the tray to recover the golden brown “, clarifies Mario Vallés.

“That is put in a pot with a chicken broth to cover, we accompany it with a carrot and caramelized onion, and we let it cook for a couple of days so that it reduces. Of course, on the first day of cooking, strain and it is left to rest to allow the fat to rise and it can be defatted well, “he explains.

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If we want to make it easier, it will be enough for us to be aware with a slotted spoon of the fats and impurities that rise during cooking and then filter the broth through a cheesecloth and let it reduce.

As companions: “a sweet potato and chestnut puree or everything that mixes sweet fruits with nuts “, in addition to the classic mashed potatoes. As a premium option, he leaves us the steps of a Robuchon puree.

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Very sweet potato puree with infused milk in garlic and thyme. We mash it with a food processor and then we pass it through a sieve to make it very fine. Then, in the saucepan, add the milk and the very cold butter cubes to incorporate the fat into the dough “, he concludes.

The apple, nuts and alcohols powerful like cognac and liqueurs or port. Even make a paste with a soft nougat, Jijona style, and add it to the sham. As for the type of pork, that is of quality and fat, such as bacon or Iberian lizard.

With careful suggests we go with the mushrooms because “you have to leave the duxelle very dry so that the liquid then does not come out and soften the toasted skin of the roast”.

The salt and grid tricks

“I never recommend cooking directly on the tray because the skin that is in contact with it is going to be soft when it is with the liquid,” he says. To avoid this, “just put a rack or cook directly on the rack and that this liquid falls into a tray that we have below. In addition, it is the same fat with which we roast the animal itself, “he clarifies.

As a finish, the measure with the salt. “Better pepper than salt, which is also a flavor enhancer. It must be clear that it is a long cooking time and that as the water is consumed, the intensity of salt is going to rise because the flavor is concentrated. In fact, I recommend that from the outset it seems a tad bland, “he clarifies.

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Also, if they are large animals, internal seasoning matters. “The farce must also be seasoned apart and the interior of the animal itself also with salt, pepper, a branch of rosemary or a garlic, well scrubbed on the inside “, he concludes.

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