I've been sitting on this post for three weeks because I wasn't thrilled with how the photos came out. I made this the weekend that my sister was in town, so I was trying to make a huge dinner while keeping an eye on my very curious nephew who suddenly wanted to cling to me. But I'm sucking it up and posting it, because regardless of how drab I made it seem with my less than stellar food styling, it was unbelievable.
It was the most earthy, perfect-for-autumn dish you could imagine. I saw this recipe in my Oprah Magazine Cookbook that I got for Chanukah last year, and I've had it bookmarked for 10 months, just waiting for the leaves to start dropping so I could make this.
And it was worth the wait.
You will need:
- 4-6 cornish game hens (1 pound each)
- kosher salt
- cracked black pepper
- 1 1/2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
- 3/4 stick unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
- 1/3 cup finely chopped celery
- 1 cup finely chopped fresh mushrooms (shiitake, morel, chanterelle, etc)
- 3 cups cooked wild rice
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh sage
In case you're like me and don't like to plan out the timing of recipes, I will make a note.
Note: MAKE THE RICE FIRST! People get grumpy when they are hungry, and when you have to stop what you're doing to make the rice, they aren't happy.
Remove necks and giblets from the hens and discard. Rise and pat dry, then sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Set aside.
In a small bowl or mason jar, soak porcini mushrooms in 1 cup of water for at least 25 minutes. Strain them and reserve the liquid! This part is important...And whenever I say that it means I forgot to do it. Rinse and chop all the mushrooms. Mix with chopped celery and onion.
In a large saute pan over medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons butter. When it is foamy, add your bowl of veggies and fungi. Stir for 8 minutes, or until onion is soft and translucent. Add rice, herbs. salt, and pepper. Moisten with about 3 tablespoons reserved mushroom water, depending on how dry the stuffing is.
Preheat oven to 350.
Melt remaining butter. Gently stuff birds, fold the flap over the opening, and tie legs together. Place them on two 12"x19" baking sheets, with plenty of room between them. Brush hens with butter, and bake for about an hour.
I wish I had started cooking this at 2:30 pm like I had planned, but when my sister wanted to go to the farm with my nephew, I couldn't resist! So I didn't start cooking until 5:30, which means we didn't eat until 9. Ugh.
Because of the rushing, I didn't leave the chicken in for as long as I wanted to. Another ten minutes would have been perfect to get the crispy, browned skin that would amp this meal into something of a work of art. As it was, it was perfectly cooked, so tender and juicy, and bursting with awesome earthy flavors.
Yes, I totally felt uncomfortable taking so many pictures of poultry butt.
As I mentioned to my family, I felt like this would be a meal eaten at Red Wall, of Brian Jaques fame. Those books always described in detail the lovely earthy recipes, made with adorable things like dandelion roots and all sorts of forest food. This comment was met with blank faces, because I'm apparently the only one who reads in my family.
I served it alongside a sage pumpkin soup served in hollowed out, roasted pumpkins, with toasted pumpkin seeds on top. I had planned to fry some sage leaves...but you can ask my brother in law what happened to those. Or my smoke detectors.
So there you have it. Awesome autumn meal, and though mildly labor intensive, it's a very forgiving and adaptable recipe.
And I learned a very valuable lesson about food styling: Even if your food is delicious, if it's monochromatic it won't photograph easily. Oh well! This blog is, after all, about my growth as a writer/cook/photographer, so I have to swallow my pride and post stuff that frustrated me.
Case in point, wait until I post the details of my fondant cake.
Original recipe from the Oprah Magazine Cookbook.