Capon (a neutered male chicken weighing from six to nine pounds) is a nice alternative to turkey for a small holiday gathering.
In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring water to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Add rice; return to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover tightly, and cook for 45 minutes, or until tender. Spread on a plate to cool.
Meanwhile, place pancetta in a large, deep frying pan over medium-low heat. Cook until fat is rendered and pancetta is crisp, 10 to 15 minutes. Add onions and cook until they begin to soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn up heat to medium; add carrots and celery. Cook until soft, 5 to 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Add stock and bring to a simmer. Add sage and reduce until thick and soupy, about 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Add butter, if desired, and stir until melted.
Add rice to pan and stir until moistened. Place bread cubes in a large bowl and combine with rice-vegetable mixture. Add more stock as needed until stuffing is slightly moist but not soggy. Stir in parsley.
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Season cavity of capon with salt and pepper. Stuff just before roasting. Rub capon with a little softened butter or olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Tie legs together with butcher?s twine and place in a roasting pan.
Turn oven down to 375 degrees and roast capon for 25 minutes per pound, or until juices run clear when thigh is pricked with a fork. Let sit, loosely covered with foil, for 10 minutes before carving.
Pancetta (cured Italian bacon) can be purchased in an Italian delicatessen or specialty store. If pancetta is unavailable, substitute regular bacon.