What’s for dinner? Cornish Game Hens!

So for the first installment of our new weekly personal culinary challenge, I took a difficult item, something I’ve never made before just to keep it real.  I decided to make oven roasted Cornish game hens in a woodsy, European style.  Being this was my first effort, I’ll be candid in admitting that it was challenging and I probably should’ve chosen something a bit more within my comfort zone for the initial endeavor… but it did pass the independent taste test of some friends and family keen to join the party.

We decided to use several of the suggested ingredients – thanks so much for the suggestions, hope you enjoy the postcards (and the recipe)!
Justin – Currants
Anonymous (please identify yourself!) – Morels
Brian – Sage
Wild Northern Woods Cornish Hens with Herb Morel Stuffing
Serves 4
HERB MOREL STUFFING:
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
5-6 slices of hearty, whole wheat bread chopped into small cubes
16-20 cloves of garlic
1 small yellow onion
2 small celery stalks, diced
1 small carrot, diced
1 Tbsp chopped sage
1 Tbsp chopped thyme

1/2 cup currants
1 apple, peeled and diced
1/2 cup (if you’re Portuguese), 1/4 cup (if you’re non-Portuguese), diced, pre-cooked chourico (chorizo)
1/2 cup morel mushrooms (either fresh or re-hydrated)
2/3 cup toasted pine-nuts

1 1/2 cups chicken stock
Sea salt and ground pepper to taste
FOR THE HENS:
2/3 Cup black-currant preserve/jam
2 Tbsp fine sugar
3 Tbsp fresh kumquat (or orange or meyer’s lemon) juice
1 Tbsp orange liqueur
2 Tbsp chicken stock
1 Tbsp of grapefruit (or orange) zest
Pinch of coarse ground black pepper
Salt
4 20-26 oz. thawed Rock Cornish game hens
Herb morel stuffing
1 Large onion
2 Tbsp salted butter
STUFFING PREPARATION:
Preheat oven to 400ºF.  Spread bread cubes out onto a baking sheet and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Bake for 15 minutes or until slightly brown on the edges.  Remove and set aside.
Place garlic cloves in an oven safe bowl just large enough to hold them and almost cover with olive oil.  Roast for approximately 20 minutes or until light brown.  Remove from oven and drain excess oil into heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add onion, celery stalks, carrot and chopped herbs and stir until onion becomes translucent and then add currants and apple.  Transfer to a bowl.
Add a bit or olive oil to the skillet and add chourico and mushrooms with pinch of salt and pepper.  Sauté for 3-4 minutes then pour this mixture over the vegetable and herb mixture and mix together well.  Let stand.
Add this mixture to the bread cubes, mix well and slowly add chicken stock allowing it to evenly coat mixture.  Cover and set aside.
HEN PREPARATION:
For blackcurrant reduction sauce:  Over low heat, combine blackcurrant preserve, sugar, kumquat juice, orange liqueur, and chicken stock, stirring constantly.  When sauce begins to bubble, add zest and pepper and set aside.
For hens: With oven still at 400ºF, rinse hens inside and out with cold water and pat dry with paper towels.  Remove any excess fat from around the body cavity and neck.  Salt cavities of the hens and stuff gently with mix.  Tie legs together and tuck wings underneath.
Slice onion into thin rings and line the bottom of a large roasting pan.
Place hens on top of onion rings.
Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat and brush hens before placing into the oven. Place roasting pan on the center rack of the oven and roast for 20 minutes.  Reduce temperature to 375º and add enough chicken stock to just touch the bottom of the hens.  Roast for another 55 minutes, basting every 10-15 minutes with blackcurrant reduction.
Transfer hens to a platter, untie legs, cover with foil and let rest for at least 10 minutes.  If you have any blackcurrant sauce left, you can add remaining juices from the roasting pan and reduce over low heat in a saucepan for 5-10 minutes while hens are resting.
Drizzle remaining sauce over hens once they’ve been plated.  At this point, you can serve hens whole or cut down the middle and serve halved.
Whew!  I served with fingerling potatoes and a light arugula salad but you can get creative.  It’s a pretty earthy dish and would suit an earthy pinot noir if you’re looking for a wine pairing.
Next week’s dish may just be a corndog!
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