I was dreaming of a 90 Degree Christmas and that is exactly what I got! What? Christmas you say? We haven’t even gotten to Halloween. I completely agree and share distain for ornaments and carols in October – but – we have a reason. My family lives in North Carolina and we decided this year to combine Summer break and Christmas so the kids could share some special time with their grandparents. Hey who says Christmas has to take place on the 25th of December anyway? It’s the heart that matters not the calendar.
That being said, my Momma could not stomach the idea of turkey and stuffing in the middle of an old fashioned southern heat wave. Something about humidity and having the oven raging for hours on end… hahahaha. So we opted for something a wee bit smaller. To be exact Cornish game hens. Did ya know that Cornish game hens are not from Cornwall? Nope. They are a crossbreed of Cornish Game Cocks (used for fighting) and Plymouth Rock Hens that were bred and raised in Connecticut by Jacques Makowsky. Anywho, that tid bit of food trivia aside, we decided stuff ’em, roast ’em and glaze ’em.
Thank goodness for air conditioning – because despite the stifling temperatures outside we managed to capture the Christmas spirit inside. There truly is nothing like an amazing meal with your loved ones no matter what time of the year. I just wish we could do it more often.
Marmalade Glazed Cornish Game Hens with Sausage Dressing
4 Cornish Game Hens (room temperature this takes about 1 hour)
Sausage Dressing Ingredients:
* 1/2 lb sausage – traditionally my momma used Jimmy Dean loose sausage. I opt for an italian spicy sausage from our local butcher Sanagan’s Meat Locker. They add lots of fennel and kick – the results are great. Really, it depends on taste.
* 5 cups bread crumbs (I use a plain country white that has been ripped apart and left to dry for a couple of days – you could combine wheat and white 50/50 if you like)
* 1/3 cup stock (prepare 1/2 cup just in case)
* 1 medium onion finely diced
* 1/2 bunch celery finely diced (use the inside stalks – I try to avoid the fibrous ones)
* 1/2 stick of butter
* 1/2 teaspoon of Bell’s poultry seasoning
* salt to taste
Sausage Dressing Directions:
Melt butter in large cast iron pan on medium low heat. Gently sautee celery until it starts to look a bit soft (aprox. 5 minutes). Add onions and sautee until translucent. In a large bowl gently fold the onions, celery and melted butter with the bread crumbs until just mixed. Brown sausage in the same pan used for the celery and onions – then gently fold the sausage into the bread mixture until evenly distributed (do not squash the bread – it will make the dressing pasty). To moisten the dressing I use about 1/3 cup of stock (my Momma always uses the gizzards to make this) and toss again. Be aware that stuffing recipes rely on feel and taste. I prepare 1/2 cup of stock to make sure I have enough for the desired result. Be careful with the the stock as wet dressing is not a pretty sight. The key is to drizzle liquid over the bread mixture as you toss until the stuffing is just right. The consistency and texture of the bread will determine some of this.
* You will have left over dressing (I like this ;))which you can bake in a casserole dish covered with tin foil. Nothing like sausage dressing sannies with leftover game hen the next day!
* 1/3 cup of Orange Marmalade (I make my own – Alton Brown has a great recipe: check it out here)
* 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
* 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
* 2 tablespoons of butter
* 1/2 tsp of hot sauce (your pick – you can eliminate if you don’t like a kick)
* Sea Salt
Mix the orange marmalade with apple cider vinegar, butter, Worcestershire and hot sauce over medium heat. Bring to a boil until reduced just slightly.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. I love a hot oven for cornish game hens. Bring the meat to room temperature. With a very sharp knife and your fingers carefully loosen the skin from the meat. Take softened butter and spread under and over the skin and salt liberally. Be careful not to break the skin or the birds won’t achieve the crispy golden colour and uniform appearance. Stuff the birds with the sausage dressing and tie the legs together. Many recipes recommend tucking the wings under the bird to avoid scorched wing tips. I found doing this often resulted in broken wings and less attractive hens. So I just let ’em burn a bit.
Roast in the over for about 25 minutes at 450 degrees. Take out of the oven and reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Using a basting brush spread the marmalade on the hens. Baste the hens every 10 minutes with the marmalade for about 30 minutes (this timing depends on the size of the hens. For larger birds you may want to tack on another 15 minutes – smaller birds may be ready faster). The hens should be golden and glossy when done. Let them rest for about 10 minutes before serving to make sure they are super juicy.