Cornish hens cook up nicely on stove top
Every week or so I get a request that has me reaching for my magic wand. If only I really had one.
Such was the case when Fran Wong asked for a recipe she'd cut out of the newspaper 30 to 35 years ago for Cornish game hens, pot-roast style. It was simple and delicious, she said, but she'd lost her copy. All she could remember was the thyme that seasoned the birds.
Searching for a single recipe that far back is a real chore, but I was interested in hunting down something similar, seeing as it must have been a pretty good dish for Wong to want it this badly -- and besides, I've always liked Cornish hens myself.
A Cornish game hen is a small young chicken, typically less than 2 pounds and about 5 weeks old. The hens are easy to find frozen, and their size makes them ideal for dinners for one or two.
They're also a favorite of slow-cooker meals, as three or four fit easily inside the typical Crock-Pot. But most recipes call for oven-roasting, which nicely browns them all around.
Pot-roast-type recipes for stove-top cooking are rare, although most slow-cooker recipes could be adapted. I was about to do that when I came across one stove-top recipe credited to Tyson Foods. It called for a mix of herbs and a bit of white wine that combine to simmer subtle flavor into the hens.
I tested it with fresh thyme and rosemary; an adapted version of the recipe follows. It cooks up simply and relatively quickly, with a very flavorful broth that can be thickened into a light gravy.
One thing about Cornish hens -- they leave you with quite a bit of fat. If you have the time to refrigerate the juices overnight, you'll be able to scoop off a half-cup of solidified fat. If you don't have the time, skim as much fat as you can from the juices or you'll taste the greasiness.
Cornish Hen Pot Roast
2 Cornish game hens (about 22 ounces each)
1 teaspoons dry thyme, or 1 tablespoon fresh leaves
1 teaspoon dry rosemary, or 1 tablespoon fresh, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon cornstarch, dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water
Rinse hens with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Split hens in half by cutting down backbone, then through breastbone.
Combine herbs, garlic, salt and pepper. Rub mixture over both sides of hens.
Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown hens well on all sides.
Add wine; reduce heat. Cover and simmer 45 minutes, until juices run clear when thigh is pierced with a fork. Remove hens; cover.
Strain juices in pot and skim fat. Bring to simmer and stir in cornstarch mixture. Stir until slightly thickened. Serve sauce with hens. Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving: 500 calories, 35 g total fat, 9 g saturated fat, 200 mg cholesterol, 700 mg sodium, 3 g carbohydrate, no fiber or sugar, 32 g protein.
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