Here’s a special dish for the holiday season your darling will love.
In this dish, Cornish game hens are baked on a bed of fresh rosemary, then brushed with a glaze made from clementines and broiled. Clementines are abundant now and look like tiny oranges but are less acidic and easier to peel.
Despite the name, Cornish game hens are not a true game bird. Rather, they are a type of chicken specifically bred to remain small. Their top weight is only about 1½ pounds, which makes them perfect for an individual serving.
Cornish hens are generally sold frozen, so you will need to plan accordingly; they can take up to 48 hours to thaw in your refrigerator. Another safe method to thaw them is the “cold water” method. It’s faster, but requires more attention. Keep the hens in their packaging and place in cold tap water. Change the water every 30 minutes so it continues to thaw. Once thawed, cook immediately.
A quinoa pilaf with cranberries and toasted almonds is the perfect accompaniment. A pilaf simply means the rice or other grain is briefly sautéed to coat with fat or gets lightly toasted and is then cooked in a seasoned broth. Quinoa requires a good rinse before cooking to remove a bitter compound called saponin.
Start the meal with a bitter green salad. Serve roasted brussels sprouts on the side and pumpkin crème brûlée for dessert. This dish is also perfect for a lighter, small-scale Thanksgiving dinner when you don’t feel like making an entire turkey.
Cornish Game Hens with Clementine Glaze
For the hens:
8-10 fresh rosemary sprigs
2 Cornish game hens, rinsed and patted dry
salt and black pepper
2 clementines, halved widthwise
2 tablespoons butter, melted
½ cup clementine juice (from 6-8 clementines) or orange juice
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
salt, to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a broiler-safe roasting pan with cooking spray. Place rosemary sprigs on the bottom.
Season the inside of the hen with salt and black pepper. Tie the legs of the hen together with butcher’s twine and tuck wings behind. Season the bottom of the hen with salt and black pepper, then place hens over the rosemary sprigs.
Place clementine halves around the hen, drizzle with melted butter, then season the hen with more salt and black pepper. Bake for 1 hour or until cooked through to 165 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh. Baste at least once with pan drippings.
Meanwhile, make the glaze. Place clementine juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce by half. Stir in orange marmalade and stir until dissolved. Stir in mustard, vinegar and salt to taste.
Preheat broiler. Brush half of the glaze over the hens. Broil 1 to 2 minutes or until glaze and skin are nicely browned. Reserve remaining glaze.
Cranberry-Almond Quinoa Pilaf
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ small onion, finely chopped (about ½ cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon lemon juice
salt and black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
¼ cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and reduce heat to medium. Cook 2 to 3 minutes or until softened.
Add quinoa and stir briefly. Add chicken broth, lemon juice and salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until broth is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy. Stir in cranberries and thyme. Cover and let stand off the heat for 5 minutes. Stir in almonds just before serving.
Place quinoa on a platter, top with hens, drizzle with remaining glaze, garnish with fresh rosemary sprigs, roasted clementines and serve immediately.