Celebrate your Sunday dinner tradition with these Roast Stuffed Cornish Hens. They’re perfect when you’re craving something a little fancy, but don’t want to spend hours hovering over the stove.
The recipe starts with brining the hens breast-side down for at least three hours. The hens are then patted dry and pricked with the tip of a paring knife to prevent the skin from “ballooning” when juices build up during roasting. Each hen is stuffed with an incredible Wild Rice Stuffing before being placed in the oven. The hens are then roasted, brushed with a vinegar and oil glaze, roasted again, brushed with the glaze, roasted and brushed one final time before serving. All of this roasting and brushing with glaze ensures that each hen is juicy and extremely flavorful.
Yield: Serves 6
2 cups kosher salt or 1 cup table salt
6 Cornish game hens (each less than 1 1/2 pounds if possible), trimmed of extra fat, giblets removed, rinsed well
6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup dry vermouth or white wine
1 recipe for Wild Rice Stuffing with Carrots, Mushrooms and Thyme
1. In a large bowl or bucket, dissolve salt in 5 quarts cold water. Add hens breast side down; refrigerate 2 to 3 hours. Remove, rinse thoroughly, pat dry, and prick skin all over breast and legs with a paring knife.
2. Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl whisk balsamic vinegar and oil together; set aside. Spoon 1/2 cup hot stuffing into cavity of each hen; tie its legs together with 6-inch piece of kitchen twine. Arrange them breast side down and wings facing out (leaving as much space as possible between each bird) on large (at least 19-by-13–inch) wire rack, set over equally large roasting or jelly-roll pan. Roast until backs are golden brown, about 25 minutes. Remove pan from oven, brush bird backs with vinegar and oil glaze, turn hens breast side up and wings facing out, and brush breast and leg area with additional glaze. Return the pan to the oven, add 1 cup water, roast until meat thermometer inserted into the stuffed cavity registers about 150 degrees, about 15 to 20 minutes longer. Remove pan from oven again, brush birds with re-blended glaze, return pan to oven, add another 1/2 cup water to pan and increase oven temperature to 450 degrees. Roast until birds are spotty brown and cavity registers 160 degrees, 5 to 10 minutes longer, depending on bird size. Remove birds from oven, brush with remaining glaze, and rest for 10 minutes.
3. While the birds are roasting, pour hen “jus” from roasting pan into a small saucepan, spoon off excess fat, add vermouth or wine, and simmer over medium-high heat until flavors blend, 2 to 3 minutes. Drizzle about 1/4 cup sauce over each hen and serve, passing remaining sauce separately.
Source: Cook's Illustrated, September 1997
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