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Cornish hen can add elegance to table

By Stephanie Williams Dean

Bless Your Spoon

If you only have a few to feed for Thanksgiving and a turkey’s too big – a simple Cornish game hen might be the answer.

Much like roasted chicken, the hen always turns out perfectly tender, golden, and crispy. On a plate, this bird’s big on presentation. With little effort, the hen makes a statement – think delicious and elegant.

The small Cornish hen, often referred to as Rock Cornish game hen, is an easy to roast bird and even easier to serve. Choose small to medium hens that are as uniform as possible, and be sure to remove any giblets from the breast cavity. Tying the legs together and cooking breast side up will deliver a knock-out presentation. Some recipes call for splitting the birds, but I prefer one whole bird per person. And if your dressing’s too moist, add more bread, and if too dry, add more broth – before baking. The recipes are easy – you can vary amounts to match your personal preferences for taste and texture.

Serve the Easy Baked Cornish Hen recipe alongside a savory square of Chicken and Grits Dressing. Or gussy up to gourmet with the Apricot or Raspberry Glazed Hen alongside the simple, Old-fashioned Egg-Bread Dressing. These small birds truly give any special occasion the pizazz for which it commands.

If you’re looking to serve something both elegant and festive for your holiday feast – the Cornish hen’s your bird.

EASY BAKED

CORNISH HENS

6 Cornish hens

3 fresh oranges

3 sweet onions

Melted salted butter

Seasoned flour with salt/pepper

Quarter the oranges. Place 2 quarters in cavity of each hen. Peel onion and quarter. Place 2 quarters in cavity of each hen. Brush hen with melted butter. Dredge in flour that’s been seasoned with salt and pepper. Cook birds uncovered, breast side up, in a greased roasting dish in a 350-degree oven for 50 minutes or until. Baste with melted butter while cooking.

CHICKEN AND GRITS DRESSING

3 cups chicken broth

1 cup yellow grits

1 stick salted butter

8 slices crustless, loaf bread

1 cup chicken broth

2 beaten eggs

1 chopped onion

1 ¼ cups chicken broth

¼ cup chopped fresh sage

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a saucepan, bring chicken broth to a boil and add grits. Cook until grits are stiff and add butter. To a cup of broth, add the crustless bread slices. Mix well. Combine bread mixture with grits and add eggs, onion, and another 1 ¼ cups chicken broth. Fold in sage and salt and pepper to taste.  Mixture should be thick and creamy. Bake in a butter-greased 2-quart casserole dish in a 350-degree oven for 30-40 minutes or until light brown and center is firm.

CORNISH HENS WITH APRICOT GLAZE

4 Cornish hens

¼ cup chopped onion

½ cup chopped celery

2 cups dried bread cubes

¼ tsp chopped marjoram leaves

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup melted, salted butter

½ cup apricot preserves

2 Tbsp. white wine

1 Tbsp. chicken broth

Glaze

½ cup salted butter

½ cup apricot preserves

1 tsp. chopped marjoram

In a mixer bowl, combine onion, celery, bread cubes, marjoram, salt, and pepper. In a saucepan, melt butter and melt preserves into butter. Add to the bread mixture. Add wine and chicken broth. Stuff hens with mixture, reserving some for basting.  Place hens in a greased roasting pan, breast side up, salt and pepper, and baste with sauce. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 50 minutes. While cooking, prepare sauce. In a saucepan, combine ½ cup butter, ½ cup apricot preserves, and marjoram. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook 3 minutes. Pour sauce over hens when serving.

SAUSAGE AND PECAN DRESSING

Cooked cornbread

1 cup chopped, cooked sausage

2 cups chopped, toasted pecans

1 ½ cups chicken broth

5 Tbsp. melted salted butter

3 cups cornbread crumbs

3 cups bread crumbs

½ cup chopped onions

¼ cup chopped mushrooms

3 beaten eggs

3 cups whole milk

1 tsp. fresh thyme

2 Tbsp. fresh parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

Bake pan of cornbread, crumble, and set aside. In a saucepan, cook sausage, drain, and crumble. Set aside. Toast pecans and set aside. In a mixer bowl, add chicken broth, melted butter, cornbread crumbs, and bread crumbs. Add sausage, pecans, onion, and mushrooms. Beat eggs and combine with milk. Add to crumb mixture. Fold in thyme and parsley. Mix all well. Add more broth if needed for moistness. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into a butter-greased glass baking dish. Bake in a 350-degree oven until firm and brown.

ORANGE AND HONEY GLAZED HENS

4 Cornish hens

1 can undiluted frozen orange juice

2 Tbsp. orange marmalade

2 Tbsp. honey

3 Tbsp. soy sauce

1 tsp. salt

2 tsp. chopped, fresh rosemary

¾ cup water

All-purpose flour for coating

½ cup salted butter

Cut hens in half. In a bowl, combine orange juice, marmalade, honey, soy sauce, salt, rosemary, and water. Marinate the hens overnight. In an ovenproof skillet, melt butter. Cover hens with flour. Then brown hens in butter.  Remove the hens to a platter and set aside. Pour orange sauce into the skillet and deglaze the pan. Add the hens back to the pan and pour the sauce over them. Cover and bake in a 350-degree oven for 1 hour. Serves 6-8.

EASY CORNBREAD & SAGE DRESSING

4 cups bread crumbs

4 cups crumbled cornbread

1 cup chopped celery

½ cup chopped onion

2 tsp. chopped fresh sage

3 cups chicken broth

1/3 cup melted butter

1 cup whole milk

Salt and pepper to taste

In a mixer bowl, combine bread crumbs, cornbread, celery, onion, and sage. Mix well. Add broth, melted butter, and milk. Add more broth if necessary. Pour dressing into a butter-greased pan. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 1 hour or until firm and brown.

GOURMET LEMON-RASPBERRY

CORNISH HENS

3 Cornish hens

Juice of 1 lemon

1/3 cup vermouth

2 crushed cloves garlic

1 cup chopped onion

3 tsp. fresh thyme

4 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

4 tbsp. vermouth

1 cup raspberry jelly

1 tsp grated lemon rind

In a mixer bowl, add lemon, vermouth, garlic, onion, and thyme. Pour several tablespoons of marinade inside hens. In a roasting pan, place the hens, and pour marinade over the top. Marinate overnight while turning hens frequently. In a 325-degree oven, roast hens for 2 hours. When done, remove from oven and cool. In a mixer bowl, combine lemon juice, vermouth, jelly, and grated rind. Baste hens with the glaze. Return to oven for 15 minutes while basting every 5 minutes. Serves 3 with whole birds or 6 with half a bird.

OLD-FASHION EGG BREAD DRESSING

4 beaten eggs

1-quart artisan bread crumbs,

Chicken broth

2 tsp. chopped fresh sage

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

In a mixer bowl, beat eggs. In another bowl, cube or crumb bread. Add enough chicken broth to make a soft batter. Add bread mixture to eggs and mix well. Season with sage, salt, and pepper. Pour into a butter-greased glass baking dish. Bake in a 350-degree oven until firm and golden.

CORNISH HENS FOR STUFFING

2-1 lb. Cornish hens

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 Tbsp. salted butter

1/3 cup long-grain rice

3 Tbsp. chopped onion

3 oz. sliced fresh mushrooms

3 Tbsp. slivered almonds

1 cup water

1 chicken bouillon cube

2 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Season hens. In a saucepan, melt butter. Cook rice, onions, mushrooms, and almonds for 10 minutes while stirring. Add water, bouillon cube, and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook 25 minutes. Stuff hens with rice mixture. Place hens in a shallow pan breast side up. Brush with melted butter and broil for 5 minutes or until golden brown. Cover and bake in a 350-degree oven for 1 hour. Baste with butter occasionally. Serves 2—double recipe for 4 or split breasts.