About 10 days ago I flew out to Phoenix to spend some time with my mom who recently returned home after recovering from a broken leg. There were things to be done, places to go, people to see and a special request from my Mom to prepare a “Thank You” dinner for a few friends who had been so helpful while her leg healed. I knew about this in advance so I had a little time to prepare. And having in the last year prepared a seven course dinner as part of my Dad’s memorial, I was well aware of my equipment limitations. I did remedy the broken measuring cups and misshapen measuring spoons I had to use last summer with new ones in her Christmas stocking – though I had completely forgotten she had no slotted spoon. Still, cooking for my mother’s friends – no pressure there!
My mom knew she wanted Roast Cornish Hens of some sort so all I had to come up with was a recipe for the hens, the salad, a starch and dessert. After some discussion we decided on the Asparagus Salad I wrote about in a previous edition of this blog, and a strawberry mousse for dessert. I set out on a quest for an interesting hen recipe. I wanted something that would work with an orzo; a starch that is a little more interesting than the standard mashed potato side. Here’s the Cornish Hen recipe I found, modified and served. Note: I cut these hens in half before I prepared the dish. While it didn’t reduce the cooking time, it made it was easier to cut the hens before they were cooked. To cut in half – use kitchen shears to cut down each side of the backbone, remove and save for stock. Turn the hen over and with the flat of your hand over the breast bone, compress the hen until the breast bone pops. Remove the bone and cartilage and using a sharp knife, separate the two halves of the bird.
Cornish Game Hens with Mustard and Rosemary Serves 6
- 8 tablespoons butter, room temperature
- 1/3 plus 2 tbl cup finely chopped prosciutto
- 4 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 3 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 4 1 1/2-pound Cornish game hens
- 1 1/2 cups canned chicken broth
- 1 cup low-fat mayonnaise
- 3 tablespoons apricot fruit spread
Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine butter, 3 tablespoons prosciutto, 3 teaspoons rosemary and 2 teaspoons mustard in bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Run fingers under skin over breast of each game hen, loosening skin from meat. Rub 1 tablespoon butter mixture under skin over breast of each hen. Sprinkle hens inside and out with salt and pepper.
Place hens on rack in large roasting pan. Pour 1/3 cup broth over hens. Dot each hen with 1 teaspoon butter mixture. Roast hens 30 minutes, basting with remaining broth and butter every 10 minutes. Continue roasting without basting until juices run clear when thigh is pierced at thickest part, about 30 minutes more. Remove the hens to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm. Reserve 1/4 cup pan juices.
While the hens are cooking mix the mayonnaise, apricot spread, remaining chopped prosciutto, rosemary and mustard in a small bowl. Refrigerate until hens are done. When ready to serve add the 1/4 cup pan juices to the mayonnaise mixture. Place a swoosh ( thanks Nike!) on the plate and half hen on top of the sauce. Ladle a bit more sauce over the hen. Pass the rest of the sauce separately.
So what did I do with the Orzo? I chopped the prosciutto slices remaining in the package and fried until crispy – think bacon. I chopped an additional 1 teaspoon of fresh rosemary and 1 teaspoon of parsley and set aside. I cooked the orzo according to the package directions. When the orzo had completed cooking I drained it and placed it in a large bowl. I added the fried prosciutto, rosemary and parsley and tossed with a little olive oil. It was a great match with the Cornish Hens. I wasn’t as happy with the sauce; it may have been too much rosemary. It wasn’t bad – just not perfect. I’ll keep experimenting with it.
Oh, and the pressure I put myself under amounted to needless worrying. Everyone must have loved the food is the clean plates were any indication!