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Archive for February, 2011

Calling all white-meat lovers…

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Chicken is quite ubiquitous these days.  Affordable and commonly raised, it has become our “go-to” protein for an average dinner.  And while many a great chef approach chicken as a blank canvas upon which to express their culinary creativity, it’s also easy to get stuck in a rut.  Chicken is chicken, you might think.  But I think not.

Not every chicken is created equal.  If you’ve ever had a Cornish hen, sweet and tender, you’d know it was a different chicken.  With its delicious natural juices flowing throughout, this young bird (slaughtered when they are only about five weeks old) is not only flavorful, but a wonderful choice for an elegant dinner.   The Rock Cornish Hen, a 1950’s cross-breed between the Cornish and Rock hens, has attained much popularity both because of its convenient single serving size and because the breeding resulted in a chicken that is mostly white meat.   In addition, a smaller bird means shorter cooking time.  So a succulent whole roasted bird could be on your table in less than an hour (longer, if stuffed).  This is a win-win solution for elegant serving, especially to a crowd of white-meat lovers.

Some more helpful Cornish tips for the best results:

  • Roasting is a great choice for Cornish hens – ideally 400-450 degrees.
  • The average bird size is 1-2lbs.  Figure 1 lb. per person, so a larger Cornish hen can feed 2 people, especially if serving other courses.
  • Cornish hens can easily be served split in half – the bones are weak and can be cut through easily with shears.
  • Cornish hens are delicious stuffed – about ½ cup per bird.  Do not over-stuff or pack tightly as it will affect cooking times.
  • Do not stuff hens until just before you put them in the oven to avoid any potential for salmonella food poisoning.

It’s easy to get yourself unstuck, I find, when fresh and flavorful options are before you.  Try this recipe this week for some new chicken inspiration.

Honey-Glazed Cornish Game Hens with Spiced Compote Stuffing

Aromatic spices make the hen’s sweet meat especially fragrant.  Perfectly accompanied by the dried fruit and nut stuffing that is cooked within, this dish is also gluten-free.    Serve with dry or semi-dry white wine.

Serves 6-8
1/3 cup oil
1½ tsp. paprika
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. allspice
Freshly ground black pepper
4 Cornish hens, pinfeathers removed, rinsed and patted dry
2 cups Spiced Compote Stuffing (recipe below)
½ cup honey
Preheat oven to 400°F.  Adjust rack in the middle of the oven.
Whisk together oil and spices in a small bowl.

Stuff cavities of each Cornish hen loosely with about ½ cup spiced compote stuffing (do not pack tightly or over-stuff).  Place on a rack set in a large roasting pan.  Rub spice mixture all over hens evenly.  Tuck wings underneath body, then secure legs together and tie with kitchen twine.  Try to arrange birds on rack so that they are not touching, in order to ensure good air circulation during roasting.

Roast hens for about 40 minutes, occasionally brushing with pan drippings.  Pour honey over the Cornish hens and continue to roast for another 20 minutes.  Cornish hens are done when juices run clear when a thigh is pierced, and internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.  Remove hens from oven and allow to rest.  Transfer hens to a serving platter, serving halved if desired.

Spiced Compote Stuffing

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1¼ cups)
1 shallot, chopped
1 tsp. kosher salt
¾ cup dried apricots, sliced
½ cup dried prunes, sliced
¼ cup dark raisins
½ tsp. cardamom
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. ginger
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup white wine
1 cup whole almonds, toasted and finely chopped

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot and oil is shimmering.  Add the chopped onion, shallot and salt.  Sauté for about 6-8 minutes, or until onions start to become golden.  Lower to medium heat and add dried fruits and spices, stirring to blend for about 1-2 minutes.   Add white wine and continue to cook, stirring often, until the wine is mostly absorbed and the fruit is softened (about 6-8 minutes).  Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the chopped almonds.  Set aside to cool.

Cook’s Tip: Nuts can be toasted in a single layer on a baking sheet for 10 minutes at 325 degrees.

Cook’s Tip: For no fuss slicing, spray knife with non-stick spray prior to slicing dried fruits.

Naomi Ross and Park East Kosher Family
By Naomi Ross