Sunday, November 6, 2011

Stuffed Cornish Hens

I've recently noticed that the Hannaford down my street is beginning to diversify their meat department. I noticed oxtails sitting next to the veal products and was determined to make Pho for dinner. Unfortunately they weren't there yesterday morning, so I decided to pick up some Cornish game hens. To my surprise they were not frozen and expensive as usual, but rather fresh packaged and decently priced. I knew exactly what to do with them when I saw them too.

Stuffing smaller birds such as quail, game hen, and poussin is a nice way to cook a whole meal in the oven. The bird is the protein/fat component and the stuffing takes the carbohydrate/starch component. It also looks very nice at the end with very little effort. Since it is fall right now I decided to use apples, cranberries and walnuts in the stuffing along with some cinnamon and honey. The base of the stuffing is a mix of Isreali couscous, orzo, baby garbanzos and red quinoa. While you might not be able to find exactly what I used, any type of grain, bean or grain/pasta blend should work.

Here we will apply all of the techniques explained in Roasted Chicken to cook these hens. (This includes brining so plan to have this made from beginning to end in about five hours, four of which are bringing hours.) While the chicken brines, get the stuffing ready.

Stuffed Cornish Hens:

4 Cornish game hens
1 Gallon warm water
1 Cup kosher salt
1/2 Cup sugar

1. Using a nonreactive container, add water, salt and sugar together. Mix until everything is dissolved. Add the hens and weigh them down to completely cover. Brine up to 4 hours.

1/2 Cup walnuts toasted and chopped
1 Cup chicken broth
1/2 Cup diced apple
4 Tablespoon dried cranberries
1 Cup grain, bean, or rice mix
2 Tablespoon butter
4 Tbs honey
1/2 Teaspoon cinnamon

1. Cook the grain mix as directed on box, being sure to undercook it just a little.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients together and mix well.

2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons honey
Salt and Pepper
Butchers twine

1. Set oven to 425F.
2.Remove hens from the brine, then rinse brine off. Dry them thoroughly with paper towels inside and out.
3. Salt and pepper the outside and cavity of the hens.
4. With a large spoon, stuff the birds as much as you can without any spillage. Make sure you press the stuffing down and fatten the hen up as much as you can.
5. Truss the birds and make sure stuffing is neatly held in place. (Here is how to truss.)
6. Place the hens on top of a wire rack and place rack in the pan.
7. When the oven is preheated to 425F (and no less!) put the hens in and do not open the door for 25 minutes.
8. While hens are roasting, melt the honey and butter in the microwave.
9. After 25 minutes take the hens out and baste with the honey butter. Put the hens in for another 10 minutes and baste again. Probe the hen for the temperature. Depending on where it is, (we want 165F) leave the chicken in for another 10 to 20 minutes as needed. Remove from oven and let them sit at least 5 minutes. Here's how mine came out:

There are two ways to serve this in my opinion. One is to give each person their own hen and let them pull it apart. Seeing as many people cant eat all of this though, I think its best to split them in half. Using kitchen shears cut down the breast bone and then down one side of the vertebrae. Cut down the other side of the vertebrae to remove the spine. Plate the chicken with the stuffing.

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