I spent Christmas 2008 with my boyfriend and his family. We hopped from house to house visiting different relatives, and food was to be had all over the place. Though I’ve only made one pie in my life (a poor, ugly thing that was rock hard in parts of the crust, runny and very un-creamy in its attempt at becoming a triple coconut creme pie, though occasionally tasty when one pursued it long enough), I made a cherry pie and a pumpkin pie to share at the different events.
So come Christmas, I had no Christmas dinner to prepare save for the one for my cats, Finn and Leopold. However, Christmas Eve was a different story, and I wanted to go to town and make something special.
For once, I actually did a fair job of planning the meal in advance (versus my usual “vague notion of what shall go forth into the oven this week”) and had all the necessary ingredients in the pantry or else, purchased a day or two in advanced. I purchased two Cornish game hens, thawed them out overnight, and then in the fridge while I was at work, and came home early to get to work on roasting them with tons of fresh rosemary.
I removed the hens from their packaging and washed them inside and out before patting them dry with a clean paper towel. Make sure to remove any gizzards, etc., inside the cavity.
Before this, though, I started the prep on the stuffing: a simple mixture of wild rice and yellow onions that I precooked before stuffing it into the birds. After the stuffing was finished, I proceeded to douse the birds in olive oil, inside and out. I added salt and pepper to the cavity, a squirt of lemon juice, and tucked in a spring of fresh rosemary before I added the stuffing.
On the outside of the bird, I added salt, pepper, rosemary, garlic powder, onion powder, and fresh diced garlic. After all that was done, I tied up the drumsticks and tucked in the wings and popped those babies into the oven.
Now, before I made the birds I had started on the side dish so that I could just warm it up before serving the whole meal. Two zucchinis, some onions, red peppers, and potatoes made up the “meat” of this vegetarian side. With a little chop chop here and a chop chop there, it was time to season this dish.
Thinking myself oh so brilliant, I thought the best way to go about coating the veggies in the bread crumbs and seasoning would be to toss it all into a freezer bag and give it a shake. Well, in some other universe this would have worked like a charm, perhaps, but not in mine where my store-brand bags ripped mid-shake and exploded all over my clothes and floor. Now, only a few pieces fell to the ground, so the majority of it was salvageable, but I had to dirty up another bowl in order to mix up the vegetables all proper-like.
(The next time I cooked after this I somehow managed to spill a whole box of whole wheat couscous all over my kitchen. I think some other such disasters happened, but I’ve since blocked them out. I’m just glad I haven’t yet set myself on fire.)
Once total disaster was averted, I put the dish into the oven and forgot about it while I prepared the hens, as chronicled above.
So now let’s return to our tiny little chicken friends: These would likely have been still quite delicious if I had just roasted them, but what I think brought it up a level was the basting method and the subsequent saucing. In the latter stages, a mixture of broth, white wine, and oil, to be integrated later with the juice from the birds, made these Cornish game hens something succulent and sublime. After the initial roasting, followed by three rounds of basting and more roasting, the hens were done…but the recipe? Ah, not quite yet. The sauce was left to be made.
Some sauces can be quite involved. There’s flour and sieving and watching to be done, but with this sauce, all I had to do was pour the liquids from the baking pan into a sauce pan and heat it up until it thickened. In a matter of minutes, I had a wonderful sauce to pour over the birds and complete my Christmas Eve meal.
Now for the recipes!
Roasted Cornish Game Hens
- 2 Cornish game hens
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 a lemon, quartered
- 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 10 cloves garlic (or about 1/4 cup diced)
- 1/3 cup white wine
- 1/3 cup chicken broth
- salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder for seasoning
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons chopped onion
- 1/3 cup uncooked wild rice
- 1 cup chicken broth
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
- Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion and uncooked wild rice. Saute 5 to 10 minutes. Mix in the chicken broth and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook 45 minutes until rice is tender and easily fluffed with a fork.
- Rub hens with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Lightly season hens with salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder. Sprinkle with fresh rosemary and diced garlic. Salt and pepper the cavity of the birds. Place 1 lemon wedge (or a squirt of lemon juice if that’s all you have) and 1 sprig rosemary in cavity of each hen. Stuff with the wild rice mixture.
- Arrange in a large, heavy roasting pan, and arrange garlic cloves around hens. Roast in preheated oven for 25 minutes.
- Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, whisk together wine, chicken broth, and remaining 2 tablespoons of oil; pour over hens. Continue roasting about 25 minutes longer, or until hens are golden brown and juices run clear. Baste with pan juices every 10 minutes.
- Transfer birds to a platter, pouring any cavity juices into the roasting pan.. Transfer pan juices and garlic cloves to a medium saucepan and boil until liquids reduce to a sauce consistency, about 6 minutes. Spoon sauce and garlic around hens. Garnish with rosemary sprigs, and serve.
Zucchini and Potato Bake
- 2 medium zucchini, quartered and cut into large pieces
- 2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
- 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 clove garlic, sliced
- 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- paprika to taste
- salt to taste
- ground black pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
- In a medium baking pan, toss together the zucchini, potatoes, red bell pepper, garlic, bread crumbs, and olive oil. Season with paprika, salt, and pepper.
- Bake 1 hour in the preheated oven, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender and lightly brown.