Spring Capers


An abiding nostalgia I carry for the 1980s is the ubiquitous restaurant fish saute of butter, olive oil, garlic, a little vermouth, and capers.  I can go right back in my sense memories to a spring break excursion Allan and I took, once we had real jobs, to Long Beach, on the Washington coast.  It was March and we were at the ocean,  so by definition, it was cold, rainy, and windy.   We went there, specifically, to eat at a then famous restaurant called The Ark.  We had received this restaurant’s cookbook for a wedding gift, not long before, and we wanted to have a dining experience there first hand.  This was one of the cookbooks, soon followed by the Silver Palate trilogy,  that moved my cooking thinking beyond hippy basics to cooking that required more technique and relied on fresh ingredients.  I will forever remember walking into the sheltering dining room of The Ark and being greeted with that saute scent that will forever represent essential Northwest cooking to me.

In said 80s, capers were brand new to this Colorado girl, and it’s only at this time in my life that I realize they are native to the Mediterranean.  Thriving in harsh environments, they can be found popping up in the cracks of walls around historic ruins and self-seeding in barren soil.  They are one of those tenacious plants that likes to exist in the trampled terrain that humans and animals have created.  The plant’s berries and leaves are harvested and they are brined or salted for preservation.

Capers are one of the food products we can buy in the Tunisian markets by the kilo, and since I did just that, I am looking for all sorts of uses.  If you are getting tired of winter dishes based on a saute of onions, celery, and carrots, you will be pleased that this meatloaf has none of them.  It gets its flavor foundation from garlic, lemon, parsley, and of course, capers.

Home-grinding turkey breasts, which are plentiful here, is something I do routinely, so I used turkey in this recipe instead of chicken.   I think this recipe works particularly well with white meat and can’t see it as well with ground beef.  Either way, the sauce keeps it moist and brings up the base flavors.  Enjoy this spring-green comfort dish.

Roasted Chicken and Bacon Meatloaf with Caper and Lemon Sauce

Recipe adapted from Cuisine NZ, Issue 162

  • 800g minced free-range chicken or turkey
  • 1/2 cup finely diced bacon
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs soaked in 1/4 cup milk
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 100ml dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon (or to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 200 C or 375 F.  Put the chicken, bacon, garlic, soaked breadcrumbs, zest, salt, and 2 tablespoons of the parsley in a large bowl and mix well.  Shape into a loaf shape and put in a roasting pan.  Drizzle with the oil.  Put in the oven and roast for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted produces clear juices and the top is slightly browned.  Remove from the oven and take out of the roasting pan.  Keep the loaf warm.

Pour the fat from the pan and place over high heat.  Add the wine, let it bubble for 20 seconds then add the capers and stock.  Boil until reduced and slightly syrupy.  Add the lemon juice, butter and remaining parsley, taste and season.  Serve the loaf sliced with the caper and lemon sauce over the top.

Serves 6

2 thoughts on “Spring Capers

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