Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cornish Hens with Cranberry-Orange Sauce

Cornish Hen and Cranberry-Orange Sauce on Platter
Hen with Cranberry-Orange Sauce

Recipe adapted from Meals for One or Two

It’s a perfect fall day here in northern California. The locust tree in my neighbor’s year is dropping golden leaves so poetically that I don’t mind them fluttering into my yard. It’s sunny, cool, and a bit breezy. Yellow and white chrysanthemums bloom in the garden. A pot of rustic applesauce bubbles on the stove. Thinking of my east coast friends, who are still cleaning up the aftermath of an unbelievably early snowstorm, I feel extremely lucky to have this beautiful day, not to mention power and lights. Best wishes to east coasters, may you be warm and lit again soon.

Bubbling Sauce Before Adding Cranberries and Orange
Sauce: Phase 1
This is a classic fall recipe from the 1978 Meals for One or Two, by the Better Homes and Gardens test kitchen. I recommend this little volume, especially since it can be found cheaply online and doesn’t take up much shelf space. It’s packed with old-school comfort food recipes. I made few changes to this recipe, other than doubling the sauce quantity and browning the hens longer, since Cornish hens are larger these days.

Sauce After Adding Cranberry and Orange
Sauce: Phase 2
You can substitute 2/3 cup dry cranberries plus another 1/4 cup water for 1 cup fresh cranberries. If they are sweetened (most are), reduce or eliminate the sugar. All-fruit no-sugar orange marmalade will make the most flavorful sauce. A tip on measuring the marmalade: ¼ cup equals 4 tbsp. It might be easier to reach a tablespoon into the jar 4 times that to spoon out marmalade into a cup. For bouillon granules, use either chicken or veggie. I like Rapunzel Vegetable Broth, which is certified organic, vegan, and tastes great, but note that it contains a significant amount of sea salt.

Final tip: if you’re making this for 4 people rather than 2 plus leftovers, cut the hens in half with kitchen shears first and reduce browning time to 10 or 15 minutes. Also cut the cooking time after liquid is added to 30 – 40 minutes.

Well-Browned Hens
For Best Browning: Add Hens Before Butter Gets Hot
Cornish Hens with Cranberry-Orange Sauce
serves about 4

2 – 1½ -2 lb. Cornish hens
2 tsp. butter or use part canola oil
salt and pepper
½ cup water
½ tsp. instant bouillon granules
2 – 3 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. cornstarch
½ tsp. ground ginger
1 – 2 dashes garlic powder
½ cup water
1 cup cranberries
¼ cup orange marmalade

Turn electric frying pan to 350 degrees, melt butter and add hens immediately, before butter gets hot. Brown hens 20 - 30 minutes, turning several times to brown all sides. Season with a little salt and pepper. Add ½ cup water and bouillon granules to frying pan. Cover and simmer about 50 minute - 1 hour, till birds are tender.

Meanwhile, in saucepan, stir together sugar, cornstarch, ground ginger and garlic powder. Stir in remaining ½ cup water. Cook, stirring constantly, till thickened and bubbly. Stir in cranberries and orange marmalade. Cook about 5 minutes, or until cranberry skins pop. You might have to press some berries against the side of the pot with the spoon to “encourage” them to pop.

Warm serving platter in microwave a minute or so. Transfer hens to warmed platter. Spoon some of the sauce over hens. Put remaining sauce in dish to be passed with hens.


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