A lot of the recipes that my family fell in love with over the years did not originate in my family. Some of them came from friends, some of them came from recipe books, and not all of the recipe cards cite where the recipe originally came from. Wine-Glazed Cornish Hens was one of those recipes that looked a bit suspicious in that respect— Mama wasn’t in the habit of keeping Cornish hens or burgundy wine around the house. So I Googled, and the original recipe is by Dorothy McNett, and can be found on her website. My mom (or whoever she got the recipe from) nixed the paprika and made some very good changes to the instructions.
See: Wine Glazed Cornish Hens by Dorothy McNett
Part of why I want to do this blog is that recipes are written by experienced cooks or at least people who can consult experienced cooks. (According to my dad, Mama was not the greatest cook when they got married and called her mother frequently for advice.) I am getting better, but I’m not great. Recipes tend to assume you’ve got plenty of experience, and many end up leaving me a bit confused. I want all that confusion eliminated from the recipes I put together, and this will require some research and a lot of screwing up.
That being said, this recipe turned out pretty well, although I have several notes for the ignorant (e.g., me).
Concerning “dry bread cubes” that make stuffing: Don’t try to make these yourself. It’s fine to use really stale bread if you have it sitting around. Like, if-you-drop-it-on-the-floor-it’ll-break stale. I’ve tried to dry fresh bread in the oven as suggested by the internet, and the stuffing that results from this is weird and soggy. Around Thanksgiving and Christmas I can find huge bags of plain “dry bread cubes” in the store, but this time of year I had to go with Stovetop Stuffing. You just have to make sure the herbs in the flavor will go well with what you’re using it for, although I think any flavor would be fine for this recipe. I believe my mother would be appalled by this. She certainly was not beyond using boxed ingredients, but she had her lines.
This recipe also calls for slivered almonds. I found a bag in the baking section of the grocery store for five dollars. Eff that. I’m not spending five dollars when I just need two tablespoons of slivered almonds. I did have some mixed nuts, so I slivered my own damn almonds.
Note that they’re “Extra Fancy.” That’s because I’m classy.
Ashley kept looking nervously at the poor Cornish hens lying on my counter, saying they looked naked and we were invading their privacy. I don’t often cook with whole animals, and I do find it a bit disturbing when you can clearly see how the creature moved around when it was alive. Although, this did not stop me from making one do a little dance. Ashley suggested we take a video, but I figured there’s plenty of dancing chicken carcass videos out there. I was correct.
Neither my mother’s nor Dorothy McNett’s recipes mention what to do with the ridiculous amount of stuffing you have left over after you “lightly stuff” the hens. My mother’s recipe also amends when you should stuff, leaving it to the last 30 minutes, which I know is a good idea because I learned from Alton Brown that stuffing is evil because it dries out the bird, and saving it for the end is a good compromise.
Alton Brown also says that basting is evil because the more you open the oven the more the bird gets dried out. Both recipes say to baste, but I got distracted and forgot to. This resulted in very moist meat, but I didn’t feel like the glaze was a glaze— just flavor for the extra stuffing (which I deduced should be placed around the hens in the pan). I actually did an experiment with a single hen in a small casserole dish, and made sure I basted three or four times during the baking. This resulted it absolutely delicious skin, but completely dry meat. I was reminded of why I didn’t like white meat as a child, and decided basting is out.
The following is my mother’s instructions for the recipe, with my changes.
Total bake time will be 1 hour 30 minutes, broken up into 30 minute increments. Preheat oven to 375º. Rinse hens and pat dry with towel. Place hens breast side up in a large baking dish. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake covered for 30 min. In the meantime, prepare glaze by mixing together wine, melted butter, and orange juice. Once hens have baked 30 min., remove cover and pour wine glaze over hens. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. In the meantime, prepare stuffing. Sauté onions and almonds in butter for five min. Toss with bread cubes, oranges, raisins, salt and pepper. Once hens have baked 30 min. more, remove from oven and stuff lightly. Place the remaining stuffing around the hens, leaving the tops of the hens uncovered. Mix the stuffing in with the juices in the bottom of the pan. Bake uncovered 30 min. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.
My mother’s recipe also called for “Salad over oil,” which I guess was just a suggestion for a veggie side. I did a spinach salad with garlic vinaigrette.
This was a long post. No one likes reading long posts.