I selected Cornish Game Hen for this week’s ingredient because I find their petite size adorable, well adorable for poultry. Also, Dave and I elected to celebrate Valentine’s Day over the weekend. Thus, I thought I would make something a little special.
Cornish hens, also known as poussin, are not actually game birds. They are small domestic chickens. Regular chickens are raised for 42 days, Cornish hens are raised for 28 to 30 days. By definition, Cornish Hens weigh less than 26 ounces.
I had no trouble finding a plethora of appealing recipes for roasting these adorable birds. I looked at 20 to 30 recopies before deciding on Emeril Lagasse’s Apricot Glazed Cornish Game Hens with Italian sausage Rice Pilaf. Emeril’s recipe calls for stuffing the hens with the pilaf. However, stuffing a bird significantly increases the cooking time, and I didn’t want dinner to take over 2 hours to prepare.
2 Cornish game hens (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds each)
1/2 tbp olive oil
2 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
2 tbp Dijon mustard – my addition
2 cups apricot jam
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 lb loose Italian sausage
2 tbp olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1/4 cup diced carrot
1/4 cup diced celery
2 tsp chopped garlic
1 cup long-grain white rice
1/3 cup raisins
2 tbp toasted almond slivers
1 tbp chopped parsley leaves
1 1/2 tsp chopped thyme leaves
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 cups chicken stock
Note: To make this recipe less stressful, get all your ingredients together ahead of time. Prepare the veggies, herbs, and spices before you start cooking. The pilaf demands a fair amount of attention.
Begin by lining a roasting pan with aluminum foil and brushing the foil with olive oil so the hens don’t stick when roasting. Place oven rack in middle position and pre-heat the oven to 360 degrees.
Next, prepare the hens and the sauce. Remove hens from packaging, rinse exterior and cavity with cool water, and pat dry with paper towels. Season both sides liberally with salt and pepper. Once seasoned, truss with kitchen twine and place breast side down in the roasting pan.
To make the sauce, combine apricot jam, mustard, and orange juice in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently. The goal is to reduce the sauce by half, this takes roughly 10 minutes. Once reduced, spoon 1/3 to 1/2 of the sauce on the hens and place in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes.
To prepare the pilaf, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a 2-quart saucepan (medium heat) and add the sausage. Cook the sausage for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Next, add the onion, carrot, and celery and cook until the onion is translucent, roughly 3 minutes. Add the garlic and the rice, stirring continuously for 3 minutes.
Add the chicken broth, raisins, almonds, parsley, thyme, cinnamon, salt, and pepper and bring to a low boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and cook for 30 minutes. Stir the mixture every few minutes to keep it from burning to the bottom of the pot.
Once you have covered the rice, check your hens. If the 25 minutes have not elapsed, spoon more sauce on the hens and wait out the timer. If the 25 minutes have elapsed, turn the hens, breast side up, spoon on more sauce, and return to oven for 20 minutes.
Once the 20 minutes have elapsed, remove the hens from the oven and check the temperature of the breast with a meat thermometer. The thermometer should read 160 degrees. Once fully cooked, let the hens rest approximately 10 minutes before serving.
I served steamed green beans with my hens and rice. However, steamed broccoli or a simple salad would also complement this meal nicely.
The chicken and rice both came out really well. The pilaf had had plenty of flavor and the chicken was not in the least dry. The only downside to this recipe, messy hands from the delicious sauce.
FYI - I used my leftover hen meat to make chicken salad, it was mighty tasty.
Overall grade: A-.