For me, stuffing is something I only eat at Thanksgiving. There were a few years in college, and right afterwards, when I made StoveTop brand stuffing to accompany chicken or pork chops, but that fell out of the repertoire years ago.
For Thanksgiving, I think most families have a traditional stuffing they make, generation after generation, and a recipe that is expected (anticipated?), without variation, on the menu, year after year. Branching out would probably cause more disappointment than it’s worth. When I make Thanksgiving, I make a bready stuffing with roasted chestnuts, giblets, and lots of herbs.
Good thing it is March. I had no qualms about trying out a new stuffing recipe. This one was unlike any I’ve ever made before. There was only a little bread. This was definitely a meaty stuffing. Sweet Italian sausage was the star. Embellished with some sautéed shallots, a little bread, lots of parsley, and an egg to bind it together, the kitchen smelled fantastic.
The sausage mixture is stuffed into a Cornish hen before roasting in a cast-iron skillet for just 40 minutes. A little on its side, a little more on its other side, and a final roast on its back before letting it take a little nap (a la the Hurry-Up-And-Wait Chicken) while you make a pan sauce from the drippings and some white wine.
Howard and I split one hen, so after it was cooked and rested, we (Howard, actually) sliced the hen down the middle and served. I only made one bird, though I made the whole amount of stuffing. (I baked the other half in a ramekin and enjoyed it for lunch.) Our favorite part of this was definitely the stuffing. The poultry-sausage flavor combination was fine. Howard and I both agreed that the meat-to-bone ratio of a Cornish hen makes it much less enjoyable to eat than chicken. Certainly, the hens look cute (weighing in at just 1.5 pounds), but it’s just too fussy to eat.
I would make the stuffing again, probably adding a few more slices of bread to make it more of a side, and bake it in a separate dish. Hens, not so much.
To see the other Doristas’ verdicts on the hens, check out their links here.
It’s hard to believe it’s been one full year since French Fridays with Dorie started in October 2010. I’ve really stuck with the program and missed only one recipe (Parisian Gnocchi). It’s been so much fun to try such a wide variety of recipes, some in my comfort zone, and some outside of it. I’ve met so many wonderful people from around the world. I love reading about everyone else’s experience with the common recipe, and their variations to adjust for dietary restrictions, preferences, or just inspired creativity. It’s one of my favorite parts of every week. Happy Anniversary to the other Doristas! I’m enjoying this shared adventure with you.
This week’s recipe from Around My French Table was Olive-Olive Cornish Hens. I actually suggested this one. It looked intriguing and was a little out of my comfort zone. It also seemed like a hearty dish for our cooler evenings. For this recipe, the hens were first “spatchcocked” or butterflied. You cut out the backbone, open up the bird, and break the breastbone so it will lie flat on a baking sheet. (Coincidentally, the New York Times has a video of Melissa Clark spatchcocking a chicken this week.)
Earlier in the week, I made Dorie’s recipe for Tapenade. It only took a few minutes, pureeing black oil-cured olives, an anchovy, some herbs, lemon, and olive oil to make a paste. I rubbed some tapenade under the hens’ skin, then rubbed them down with olive oil and sprinkled them with lemon juice. It’s as simple as that. The hens roasted for just 25 minutes in a very hot oven. The birds were sizzling when they came out of the oven with perfectly crisped skin.
We split the hens in half and shared one for two nights in a row. To accompany the hens the first night, I made Rapid Roastini, (from Nigella’s Kitchen, which I had out from the library) which are pan-fried potato gnocchi. They browned up beautifully and tasted like adult tater tots. I also made sautéed kale with almonds. For night #2, I just served the hens with steamed rice and a green salad.
The Cornish hens offered unexpected weeknight elegance. It was definitely fast enough to make for everyday, but would impress guests. Other than the cute factor, I don’t know if I would bother with Cornish hens for regular dinner, but I could see rubbing the tapenade under the skin of chicken pieces and roasting them in the same way. Less bones!
I still have quite a bit of tapenade to use up. What ideas do you have for using it?
Next week’s recipe looks like another winner: Buckwheat Blini with Smoked Salmon and Crème Fraîche. Can’t wait for that one.