Thanksgiving Hens

Rock Cornish Game Hens, a cross between a White Rock Hen and a Cornish Hen, are underrated. Maybe it is because ounce for ounce they are a little more expensive than chicken or perhaps it is because they are a little scary for people who are used to chicken in parts. But they are delicious, indeed, and their greatest attribute is that they are “mini.” Each person gets his or her own bird. I thought it would be nice to come up with a recipe that mimics the Thanksgiving bird but can be made in one tenth the time. So these birds are stuffed à la Thanksgiving and served with a good old fashioned pan gravy that you can whip up while the Cornish hens are resting.

Makes 4 servings
Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Total preparation time: 60 to 65 minutes

6 frozen breakfast sausages
2 small onions
4 slices homemade-style white bread, torn into small pieces
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon dried sage
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Kosher salt and freshly milled black pepper
4 Cornish hens (1 to 1 1/4 pounds each), rinsed and dried
1/2 cup white wine or Vermouth, optional
One 14 1/2-ounce can chicken broth or 1 3/4 cups Chicken Stock (page 000)
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 375° F; arrange the frozen sausages in a shallow roasting pan and roast until cooked through, about 18 to 20 minutes. Set the sausages aside until they are cool enough to handle; then slice them crosswise, 1/4-inch thick. Reserve the pan. Turn up the heat to 500ºF.

Meanwhile, coarsely chop one onion and finely chop the other. Combine the sliced sausages, bread, finely chopped onion, 2 tablespoons of the butter, the sage, thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Season the hens inside and out with an additional 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Stuff each hen with one fourth of the bread mixture and tie the legs. Arrange the hens on a rack in the shallow roasting pan and drizzle the wine and remaining1 tablespoon butter over them.

Roast the hens for 20 minutes; add the coarsely chopped onion to the pan. Continue roasting for 10 to 15 minutes longer, until a meat thermometer inserted in the thigh joint registers 170° F. Remove the hens to a platter, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the roasting pan on a burner; add the broth and bring to a boil stirring to loosen any brown bits in the bottom of the pan. Whisk together 1/4 cup water and the flour; add to the roasting pan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Simmer 3 minutes. Serve the hens with the sauce.

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