Our Lady’s Holy League Feast

Just a little Catholic Background for those who may not be familiar with the day. Our Lady of The Rosary was instituted by Pope Pius V. Originally Our Lady of Victory, it was to commemorate the anniversary of the defeat of the Turks at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 on the first Sunday in October. The feast date moved each year until it was fixed to October 7. The entire month of October is dedicated to encouraging the Faithful to pray the Rosary, reflecting on the mysteries of the Christian Faith.

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Sunday’s Grilled Game Hens

Maybe it’s old-school thinking, but there is just something about chicken and Sundays that, in my mind, naturally go together. Go to church, come home and have a great Chicken Supper. Roast chicken, fried chicken. It really didn’t matter. It was chicken on Sunday.

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Roasted Game Hens with Orange Sauce

I get my inspiration from a multitude of places, everything from serving the web to reading cookbooks. I am a very visual person, so pictures speak to me. While surfing the net for roasted chickens, I came across a recipe for a roasted chicken with an orange sauce. I read the recipe, but it didn’t fully jive with the photo. Hum, what’s up with that?

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Punting with Spice Rubbed Barbecue Game Hens

We had games hens on the meal planner this week. I had planned to make Portuguese Grilled Chili Basted Game Hens, a family favorite that was long over due. Step one: buy the game hens. Check. Step two: thaw hens in the refrigerator early in the week. Check. Step three: begin to marinate game hens 48 hours prior to grilling. Missed that step. Okay, how about 24 hours? Nope, got side tracked yet again. Eight hours? Not happening. Yet there they were – these beautiful game hens just sitting in the refrigerator, waiting to be cooked. I could hear them calling to me. Get creative. We deserve something out of the ordinary. And the hens were right, I really didn’t want to make any of my standard roasted game hen recipes no matter how delicious those recipes might be. It was far too warm a day to have the oven puffing away at 400 degrees for several hours. Nope, we were cooking outside. Sunday afternoon rolled around and it was time to punt. Continue reading “Punting with Spice Rubbed Barbecue Game Hens”

National Poultry Day and Game Hens Coq au Vin

Depending upon which of the various “National” Calendars you subscribe to, today is National Oatmeal Cookie Day, National Chocolate Caramel Day, National Let’s Laugh Day, Certified Nurses Day and World Social Work Day. Considering today is cradled neatly mid-way into the Lenten Season, the idea of Social Work Day appeals to me. But that’s a subject for another time.

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Garlic and Rosemary Company’s Coming Game Hens

Today is the first Sunday of Lent. Just for the record, according to church teachings, Sundays are a day of celebration. In other words, Sundays are exempt from Lent. While eating meatless dishes are okay, Sundays are set aside for feasting together as a family, even during Lent. So make that big Sunday Roast, or cook up a beautiful chicken. After all; there is something about roasting chickens and Sundays that seem to go hand in hand.

Growing up, a Sunday Roast Chicken  was always a big, fat hen. We didn’t do Game Hens. Maybe because there were so many of us, it made more sense to roast a big, fat chicken for Sunday Dinner rather than a bunch of small game hens. When I asked, Dad said we ate roasting chickens because he did not particularly like game hens. He thought the meat of the game hens was too dry. He’s right, if you roast a game hen like a chicken.

live-game-henOne thing I have always done with game hens is to let them sit for several hours in a pot of cold water. Depending on the final recipe, sometimes that pot has more than just salt, there’s a little liquid smoke or mesquite seasoning or whatever else I can think of to enhance the flavor. It really did not matter what the recipe might call for, a bath has to be step one. I don’t know if this truly prevents the meat from becoming too dry, it’s just what I do. Always have. So as I sat down to write this post, I decided to surf the web – see what others have to say on the subject. The answer? Some do, and swear it makes the meat more juice, others don’t and swear brining  alters the natural flavor of the hens. No definitive answer. (By the way, you know how google tries to “guess” what it is you are searching for? I typed “Do game hens . . .” and what popped up was “lay eggs” – a subject I had never really thought about before. Turns out they do, but they aren’t very good at it).

This is one of those recipes that can be adjusted, depending upon how many people you plan to feed and what you might be serving as a side.

Here’s to Sunday Suppers and Company!

Garlic and Rosemary Cornish Game Hens
4 (1 1/4- to 1 1/2-pound) Cornish game hens, giblets removed
1 lemon, cut into 4 wedges
4 large fresh rosemary sprigs
3 tablespoons olive oil
24 garlic cloves, peeled
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup chicken broth
Additional rosemary sprigs (for garnish)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Pat hens dry with paper towels. Season cavities lightly with salt and pepper. Place 1 lemon wedge and 1 rosemary sprig in cavity of each hen. Rub hens with 1 tablespoon oil. Season outside of hens lightly with salt and pepper. Arrange in heavy large roasting pan. Scatter garlic around hens. Roast hens in hot oven 25 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Pour wine, broth and remaining 2 tablespoons oil over hens. Continue roasting until hens are golden brown and juices run clear when thigh is pierced at thickest part, basting every 10 minutes with pan juices, about 25 minutes longer.

If birds are not cooked through, add about 1/2 cup more chicken broth, cover and continue to cook 15  minutes longer.

Lift hens to transfer to a serving platter, pouring any juices from cavity into roasting pan. Tent hens with foil to keep warm. Transfer pan juices and garlic to heavy medium saucepan. Boil until reduced to sauce consistency, about 6 minutes.

Cut hens in half lengthwise. Arrange on plates. Spoon sauce and garlic around hens. Garnish with additional rosemary sprigs and serve.

 

Roasted Cornish Hens with Fennel and Rosemary in an Orange Sauce

Was it the beautiful, golden roasted Cornish Game Hens or the thought of a succulent orange sauce that drew you in? I’d be willing to bet you saw Fennel in the title and cringed, willing to give this recipe the once over, all the while thinking “maybe there’s a way around the Fennel.” You’ve heard the stories – Fennel tastes like licorice. And you, my dear reader, are NOT a fan of licorice. On the whole, what we eat in a restaurant is basically the same combination of ingredients that we cook with at home  There is, however, a short list of ingredients that are commonly used in commercial kitchens that are underused by home cooks. Fennel is probably at the top of the list, often pushed aside by home cooks. While there is no denying its sweet licorice aroma, unlike anise, the flavor of Fennel is subtle and light. Don’t let your dislike of licorice turn you away from Fennel completely. This wonderful vegetable does not need to be the star of the show. As a background flavor, especially in dishes that contain citrus, Fennel becomes that flavor most people like but cannot describe. So go ahead, try a little. I promise, you will be amazed.

Oh, the aromas wafting from my kitchen as this beautiful dish roasted was amazing. Potatoes roasting – I love the smell of potatoes roasting. The hint of Fennel and all that butter oozing from every crevice of the game hens – heave! Just imagine the pan drippings, taking on a subtle kiss from the vegetables, and enriched with all that buttery-white wine goodness. While no cream is used in the sauce, the sauce is none the less creamy. Oh, and the orange segments at the end – divine!

Roasted Cornish Hens with Fennel and Rosemary in an Orange Sauce
Cornish Hens
2 Cornish game hens, thawed and patted dry
10 baby potatoes, quartered
1 bulb fennel, cored and cut into thin wedges
4 plum tomatoes, halved
6 cloves garlic, peeled
2/3 stick butter, divided and softened
2 sprigs rosemary, leaves chopped
1 orange, zested and segmented
salt
1 cup white wine
2 cups chicken stock, divided

Heat oven to 425 degrees.

In the bottom of a large roasting pan, scatter the potatoes, then top with the fennel wedges.

Arrange the tomatoes cut side up on the edges of the roasting pan.

Sprinkle the vegetables liberally with salt.  Scatter the chopped rosemary, garlic cloves, and orange zest over the vegetables. Set pan aside

Divide the butter, reserving 2 tablespoons for the sauce. With the remaining butter, about half a stick, smear all over the game hens, working butter into any crevices and under the skin with your fingers. (By lifting the skin up gently and placing butter beneath, this creates an air pocket to aid in the crispness process).

Sprinkle the hens liberally with salt, then place them breast side up over the veggies. Tuck the wings and legs under the hen bodies.

Pour the wine and 1/2 cup of stock into the bottom of the pan. Roast the vegetables and hens for 20 minutes, uncovered. After 20 minutes, remove the pan from the oven (close the oven door to maintain temperature)  and check the liquids. If the wine/stock mixture has evaporated, add up to 1 more cup of stock if necessary.

Cover the roasting pan, and roast for 20 – 30 more minutes until the veggies are tender and the hens are nearly cooked through – 155 degrees internal temperature, if using a meat thermometer. (You want the legs to pass the “wiggle” test).

Remove roasting pan cover, and let hens roast for 10-15 minutes longer until the skin is crispy and the birds are cooked through.

Remove pan from the oven, and reserve about 1/2 cup pan drippings. Replace pan lid and allow to hens to rest while you make the orange sauce.

Note: I wanted to add some asparagus to the overall presentation. This was super easy – and completely optional.

Asparagus Spears
1 bunch asparagus tips, trimmed
3 Tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon salt

Trim asparagus by snapping off woody ends. Place tips in a micro-wave proof dish. Add water, sprinkle with salt. Zap in microwave about 2-3 minutes or until tender-crisp.

Shake off excess water. Divide into 3 bunches. Lay one bunch each at the far ends of the roasting pan with the resting birds, the third bunch in the middle. Keep asparagus warm in the roasting pan while the sauce is made. Serve as part of the vegetables, ladle with orange sauce.

Orange Sauce
2 Tablespoons Butter (reserved)
1 Tablespoon Flour
1/2 Cup Pan Drippings
1/4 Cup Orange Juice
1/2 Cup Chicken Stock
Orange Slices

In a small saucepan, heat the remaining butter until foamy. Add the flour, and whisk to form a light roux.

Pour in the reserved pan juices, whisking to combine. Add orange juice and chicken stock. Let the sauce bubble and thicken for 1 minute, then add the orange segments, just to warm through.

Carve game hens, and plate with the vegetables. Liberally ladled sauce over everything. Be sure to include some of the orange segments – so delicious!

Game Hens with Garlic and Rosemary

A true Cornish Game Hen is a young female Cornish chicken about 5 weeks of age, weighing around 2 pounds. These hens are a large-breasted breed of English birds. No longer raised for commercial purposes, true Cornish chickens are raised by backyard enthusiasts and small specialty farms. These are poor egg-layers, bred strictly for their meat. True Cornish chickens are slow to mature, making them undesirable for commercial farms. The hens sold in the markets today are actually a cross between a Cornish and a Plymouth Rock chicken. They are rapid growers, with less feed costs to reach maturity. Due to their rapid growth, Rock Cornish hens are prone to health problems such as heart attacks and skeletal deformities. Sad but true. The birds sold in the grocery stores weight between 2 to 5 pounds. They may or may not be a hen, as young males are also sold as Rock Cornish Game hens. Game Hens are attractive on the table, lending an air of grace and sophistication.  I love game hens for special Sunday suppers or whenever I feel the need to give a little “fancy” to the table without necessarily doing a ton of extra work.

Growing up, Sundays and some sort of chicken dish just naturally go hand in hand. In the summer it was often fried chicken served outdoors with fresh corn from the garden and a big slice of watermelon. In the fall, roast chicken seemed to fill that Sunday Chicken need. The only chicken I knew growing up were big, fat birds that looked more like small turkeys.  Big was always better. Sunday dinner wasn’t just Mom, Dad and their four offspring. It was our cousins who lived around the corner, an Aunt and her son from down the street, and extended good friends who sometimes wandered by after mass. Even after I moved out on my own, coming home for Sunday dinner was expected. It wasn’t until Hubby and I moved to another state that we began having our own Sunday traditions. It wasn’t until then that I discovered the special beauty of Rock Cornish Hens. While we don’t do fancy Sunday dinners every week, I like to make it a point to do a little something special one Sunday a month. This is one of my favorites.

Game Hens with Garlic and Rosemary
2 Game hens,1 1/2 lbs each, giblets removed
1/2 lemon, cut into 2 wedges
2 large fresh rosemary sprigs
3 tablespoons olive oil
12 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup canned low-salt chicken broth
Additional rosemary sprigs

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Rinse hens under cold water. Pat hens dry with paper towels.

Season cavities lightly with salt and pepper. Place 1 lemon wedge and 1 rosemary sprig in the cavity of each hen. Rub hens with 1 tablespoon oil. Season outside of hens lightly with salt and pepper. Arrange in heavy large roasting pan. Scatter garlic around hens.

Roast hens 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Pour wine, broth and remaining 2 tablespoons oil over hens. Continue roasting until hens are golden brown and juices run clear when thigh is pierced at thickest part, basting every 10 minutes with pan juices, about 25 minutes longer.

Transfer hens to platter, pouring any juices from cavity into roasting pan. Tent hens with foil to keep warm. Transfer pan juices and garlic to heavy medium saucepan. Boil until reduced to sauce consistency, about 6 minutes.

To serve, split each hen in half lengthwise. Arrange on a dinner plate with a wedge of lemon. Spoon sauce and garlic around hens. Garnish with additional rosemary sprigs and serve.

Portuguese Grilled Chili Basted Game Hens

A few years back, I was on a Portuguese cooking kick.  I couldn’t get enough of it.  In this quest, I stumbled upon a treasure-trove of wonderful dishes at portuguesecooking.com. Not only were there recipes, but stories and tantalizing tidbits of how the dish came to be from folklore and historical facts of many of the dishes.  Needless to say, I was in heaven, devouring the tidbits while adding recipe after recipe to my collection. I adore them all.

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Mesquite Broiled Cornish Game Hens

One Sunday morning I found myself standing in front of my freezer, a blank look on my face. I wanted to make chicken – after all it was Sunday. However, I was feeling particularly lazy and did not want to make our planned meal. Nothing on my menu planner is ever carved in stone. I wanted something tasty and easy. I needed something that would thaw in a few hours, cook easily and not heat up the kitchen too much. That wasn’t too much to ask, way it?  There they were – that package of two game hens I had bought a while back and never gotten around to cooking. One of the things I like about game hens is that you can always do a quick partial thaw simply by submerging the birds in cold water. The water would need to be changed periodically, which was no big deal. Once the birds were nearly thawed, they could be butterflied. By butterflying the hens, they would finish thawing quickly and cook up just as fast. Broiled hens would cook in no time, and not heat up the kitchen the way a roasted chicken will. Yeah, game hens to the rescue.

Note: If you are going to serve the birds with sides such as mashed potatoes or rice pilaf or anything that takes longer than about 20 minutes from start to finish, you’ll want to get your sides started before preparing the birds. Most side dishes can be held warm without drying out. Game hens cannot.

Mesquite Broiled Game Hens
2 Game Hens
1/2 Cup Olive oil, divided
4 tablespoons Mesquite Seasoning (McCormick makes a great Mesquite Blend)
4 Tablespoons Smoked Paprika
2 Tablespoons Minced Garlic

Turn hens breast side down. With good kitchen scissors, cut along back bone on either side to remove bone completely. Discard bone.

Turn hens over, flatten to split breast bone. Press birds as flat as possible, tucking the wings under the breast and the legs turned inward.

In a small bowl, mix 1/4 cup olive oil, mesquite seasoning, smoked paprika and minced garlic. This will create a thick paste.

Gently lift skin and rub seasoned paste into the meat. Turn hens over, and brush meat with paste mixture. 

Preheat broiler. Remove hens from bag and place on a broiler pan, skin side up. Mix remaining oil and seasonings. Brush skins well with mixture.

Place pan under the broiler, about 6-8 inches from heat source. Broil for about 15 minutes, checking after 10 minutes.

Remove pan from oven, flip hens over and return to broiler for 10-15 minutes longer or until meat is no longer pink.

Remove pan from oven, cover with foil to retain heat and let birds rest for about 10 minutes.

mesquite-broiled-game-hens-4

This would be a good time to finish the sides.

When ready to serve, cut leg/thigh from breast/wing portions of the birds. Split the breast meat with wings attached. Arrange on a platter, garnish with parsley or rosemary if desired and serve with your favorite sides such as garlic mashed potatoes and buttery corn.

Grape-Stuffed Kahlua Game Hens with Kahlua Sauce

kahlua_bookJust where my little Kahlua cook booklet came from, I haven’t a clue.  I don’t know if the booklet came with a bottle of the delicious elixir or if I picked it up in a grocery store check out line.  All I know is that I’ve had my little booklet for over twenty years now.  I say “booklet” because it’s much too small to be considered an actual “cook book”.  It’s packed with all sorts of yummy recipes, all using Kahlua in some way or another.  This recipe is one of my favorite.  The game hens, when placed on a bed of long grain and wild rice, surrounded by grapes and sliced oranges, make a picture perfect presentation. Whenever I’m in the mood for some top shelf cooking without a lot of fuss, this is the recipe I turn to the most.  It’s a Sunday Special in our house even when we aren’t expecting company.  Just thinking about this awesome dish gets my mouth to water . . .

Grape-Stuffed Kahlua Game Hens with Kahlua Sauce
½ Cup Kahlua
¼ Cup Fresh Orange Juice
2 Tablespoons Fresh Lemon Juice
½ Teaspoon Yellow Mustard
¼ Teaspoon Paprika
3 Tablespoons Butter
4 Cornish Game Hens
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Orange, quartered & Peeled
1 Orange, sliced thin for garnish
1 Lemon, peeled & cut into 8 thin slices
1/2-3/4 Cup Seedless Green Grapes (approximately) for stuffing
Additional Red Grapes for garnish

Position oven rack to lower third position. Preheat oven to 425-degrees.

Peel and quarter 1 orange, set aside. Peel and slice lemon, set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine Kahlua with orange juice, lemon juice, mustard and paprika. Add butter. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer 1 minute.

Rinse game hens under cold water. Pat dry with paper towels. Season cavity of each with salt and pepper. Place 1 slice of lemon under skin of each breast. Place 1 slice of orange into neck of game hen. Stuff cavity with grapes. Spoon 1 tablespoon Kahlua-baste into each cavity.

Truss or skewer legs and wings. Arrange hens, breast-side up in a shallow rimmed baking pan.

Cover hens loosely with foil and place in the oven.  Immediately reduce oven to 375-degrees and roast for 30 minutes.

Remove foil, brush hens with Kahlua-baste. Continue cooking about 30 minutes, basting occasionally. If necessary, cover with foil to prevent over-browning.  Remove hens from oven, remove trussing or skewers and transfer to serving platter.  Tent to keep warm while making the sauce.

To make Kahlua Sauce add pan drippings to remaining Kahlua baste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Spoon over hens.

Garnish serving platter with additional grapes and orange slices.  For a dramatic presentation, serve hens surrounded by Long Grain and Wild Rice.