Kitchen Exhibitionist
The Culinary Quests of a Food Enthusiast Stuck in the Sticks
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Easter Dinner - Apricot Glazed Cornish Hens with Couscous Dried Fruit Stuffing
Easter Dinner - Apricot Glazed Cornish Hens with Couscous Dried Fruit Stuffing

I enjoy serving Cornish hens at dinner parties because they are easy to prepare and make such an elegant presentation, with each person getting their own tiny little hen. Last Easter I served Cornish Hens instead of the traditional ham because one guest did not eat pork. I prepared the hens in a special way (boneless!) that has made them my new favorite springtime main dish for special occasions.

For that occasion I boned the hens, removing all the bones but the drumsticks and wings, and then stuffed and reassembled them, sewing them up so they looked whole. They were so much nicer to eat at the table without all the bones. Although it took me about 10 minutes per hen, it wasn’t difficult because I followed the instructions and photos from a cookbook (details below). After roasting and basting with an apricot glaze, they looked beautiful. I only wish I had taken photos.

The Couscous with Dried Fruit is just perfect for stuffing Cornish hens. An interesting and exciting dish, loaded with apricots, golden raisins, toasted pine nuts, fennel and other goodies, it would make an appropriate side dish with almost any main course.

Boneless Apricot Glazed Stuffed Cornish Hens
6 servings

The boning instructions and photographs here are from Marlene Sorosky’s Year-Round Holiday Cookbook (now out of print). The boning process is actually much easier than it looks. After the first hen, the rest go quickly,

6 whole Cornish hens, about 1 ¼ pounds each
Coucous with Dried Fruit stuffing (recipe below)
Apricot Glaze (recipe below)
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Remove giblets from cavities of hens and rinse inside and out with cold running water. Dry with paper towels.

Bone and stuff the hens following these instructions:

1. Cut down along each side of the backbone
Place hens breast side down on cutting board. Make a cut down each side of the center of the backbone.

2. Scrape meat away from bone toward sides of bird.
Scrape meat away from bone with the edge of a sharp knife. Continue to pull meat away from bone with fingers, working and pulling it away from bone on each side.
Cut joint at wing tips and legs, leaving wings and drumsticks attached to meat.

3. Scrape meat down from thigh bone

4. Pop out thigh bone at joint

5. Exposed bones after both sides have been cut loose.

6. Pull out breast bone.
Carefully cut flesh away from breast bone and pull out breast bone. Season exposed inside of hen with salt and pepper.

7. Stuff hens
Stuffing should be cold. Mound stuffing in the center of each hen. Fold each side of hen over stuffing, overlapping slightly. With hands, push bird into original shape. Skewer or truss closed. (I threaded a giant trussing needle with kitchen string and sewed up the back).

8. Complete
Tie legs together with string. Place a metal skewer through wings to hold them in place.

Refrigerate until 1 hour prior to roasting.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place hens on a large baking sheet with sides and brush with olive oil.

Bake for 30 minutes. Brush with Apricot Glaze. Bake for 15 minutes. Brush again with Apricot Glaze. Bake for 15 minutes or until hens are cooked, and the skin is golden and shiny. Pull out skewers and snip and remove kitchen string. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Couscous with Dried Fruit Stuffing
From The Fruit Cookbook by Nicole Routhier
Yield: 8 side dish servings

I usually make the recipe exactly as written. Last Easter, due to a guest who did not eat pork, I replaced the sausage with diced, sauteed mushrooms and it was just as good.

3/4 cup dried apricots, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup golden raisins
3 Tblsp dry sherry
3 cups chicken broth
4 Tblsp unsalted butter (1 stick)
2 cups uncooked couscous
1/2 lb hot Italian sausage meat (remove the casings)
2 small fennel bulbs or 3 ribs celery, trimmed and sliced 1/4 inch thick (1 1/2 cups)
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
2 Tbsp minced garlic
2 tsp dried thyme, crumbled
2 tsp dried sage, crumbled
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine the apricots, raisins and sherry in a small bowl. Cover andset aside.

2. Place the chicken broth and butter in a large saucepan and bring to aboil over high heat. Add the couscous in a stream, stirringconstantly. Quickly cover the pot and turn off the heat. Let the couscous sit while you prepare the rest of the stuffing.

3. Add the sausage to a large skillet over medium-high heat, and brown,breaking up the lumps with the back of a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes.Add the fennel, onions, and garlic and cook until soft, about 3minutes. Add the dried fruits, thyme, and sage and stir for 1 minute. Remove from heat.

4. Fluff the couscous with a fork to separate the grains. Add thesausage-fruit mixture to the couscous. Stir in the pine nuts and mixuntil all ingredient are will combined. Season to taste with salt andpepper.

Apricot Glaze
From The Loaves and Fishes Party Cookbook

¾ pound dried apricots
½ cup white vermouth
1/4 cup apricot jam
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tablespoon grated fresh ginger
½ teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer for 10 minutes. Transfer to a blender or food processor fitted with the steel blade and puree until smooth.

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