Valentine’s Day Cornish Game Hen (14 February 2000)
Carolyn loved her dinner (and the carnations, book and Valentine’s Day card), even though it was pretty straightforward. I love doing simple, fairly fast, and delicious meals. I should point out, however, that when the hen was done, Carolyn thought the wild rice was some sort of tea (grin). She says I don’t know how to make either rice or pasta, which is not true. But I do sometimes have trouble following directions. I tend to make my own path.
1 Cornish game hen, split in half *
Mixture of 1/2 teaspoon each dried basil, thyme, rosemary, marjoram and sage (grind lightly in a mortar to bruise the thyme and rosemary leaves)
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground 4 colour peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 cloves Italian garlic, minced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons Pinot Noir wine
Mix all ingredients except hen together in a medium bowl, then place hen halves into mixture, turning to coat well. Marinate for 40 to 60 minutes.
Preheat oven to 450° F. When hen is ready, place halves, skin side up, onto a rack over a baking dish. Use a basting brush to coat each half well with oil mixture. Reserve a small amount for one more basting.
Place baking dish into oven. Reduce heat to 325° F. after 10 minutes and roast for additional 45 minutes, basting one more time and sprinkling lightly with sweet Hungarian paprika.
It is critical, for health reasons (i.e., salmonella or e. Coli bacteria), that you do not baste less than 15 minutes before this hen is cooked. Discard the remaining marinade.
As an alternative, make a little more of the marinade and reserve 1/4 cup for basting – should be enough. [Blame me – I’m a Texan and just born lazy ….]
To make the sauce, strain and defat the hen stock you’ve made (see Note). Mince a clove of garlic, heat a small sauté pan, drizzle a couple of teaspoons of olive oil in the pan, and toss the garlic in the pan. Scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the baking dish (try to avoid picking up much fat) and add them to the sauté pan, pepper the mix to taste and add 2 or 3 tablespoons dry sherry. Add the defated stock to the pan, stir vigorously, then add an emulsion of 1 teaspoon cornstarch plus 1 teaspoon water to the pan. Simmer slowly until it turns into a sauce.
Serve with wild rice and vegetable of your choice.
* Note: To split hen, clean inside well under cool running water and allow to drain (remove any giblets). Split down breast bone with meat scissors, from neck to bottom, or vice versa. Then remove backbone by snipping through ribs on either side of it. Make stock by simmering backbone (and gizzard and heart, if available) in 1-1/2 cups of peppered and salted water while hen cooks.