Cornish Game Hens are a lovely dish with everyone getting their own little hen on their plate. They are perfect for those special dinners when you want something a little different and elegant.
This is what we served for Christmas dinner this past year. It made such a festive plate and was a hit with everyone. I decided to do this post today, as opposed to next Fall, because a while back I posted a post on Brined Chicken Quarters L’Orange and the virtue of brining meats. This past week Chef Connie at Marinating Online posted a post on Cider Brined Chicken and the Transformative Power of Salt. It’s a very good and informative post on brining technique that you owe it to yourself to check out. One of the readers on her blog commented on how the brining technique would fare with game hens. Well, this recipe is the answer to that question. Brining provides flavorful, juicy meats. With poultry, it also helps to create crispy skin. Next Fall when the pomegranates are available in your loal market, give this recipe a try. It won’t disappoint.
- 4 Cinnamon Sticks 2″ long each
- 2 Star Anise
- 2 large cloves Garlic peeled and crushed
- 1/4 tsp ground Clove
- 6 large Juniper Berries
- 1 Tbsp Herbs d’ Provence
- 3/4 cup Sea Salt
- 1 gal Water
- 2 Tbsp Coriander Seeds
- 2 Tbsp White Pepper Corns
- 1/2 cup Maple Syrup
- 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 medium Spanish onion, finely diced
- 1/2 Tbsp minced garlic
- 1/2 Tbsp whole white peppercorns
- 1/2 cup port wine
- 3 cups home-made chicken stock
- 1 cups pomegranate juice
- 1 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 3 Tbsp brown sugar
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper
- 2 Tbsp finely chopped chives
- 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
- 5 whole Cornish Game Hens
- Olive oil
- 2 Tbsp dried Thyme
- 1 Tbsp Ground White pepper
Brine - As always, the first step involving brining is to make the brine. Add all of the brining ingredients to a large pot. Bring the mixture to a boil to dissolve the salt and bring out the flavors of the spices. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Because of the amount of time required to cool, you can always make the brine a day or two in advance. When cooled, put the chicken in a large zip lock bag. We use the 2 gallon size Zip Locks. Add the brine and allow to sit in the brine for 2 – 3 hours. Allowing it to sit in the brine for more than 3 hours will result in a very salty game hens. If you are brining only 1 or 2 hens, only brine it for 1 – 2 hours and no longer than 2 hours. Because we are using 5 game hens, you can slightly increase the brining time.
Game Hens - Once the game hens have brined, preheat an oven to 375 F. Rub the skins of the game hens with olive oil Sprinkle with the dried thyme and ground white pepper. Place in a roasting pan and put in oven. Roast the game hens for 45 – 60 minutes until the juices run clear. When done, remove from the oven, tent with foil and allow to rest.
Pomegranate Sauce - Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, and sweat the onion and garlic until the onion is tender, about 3 minutes. Add the peppercorns and cook another 3 minutes.
Add the port and cook, stirring, until most of it has evaporated. Add the stock, pomegranate juice, molasses and brown sugar, raise the heat to medium-high, and reduce slowly to a sauce consistency. As the sugars caramelize, the sauce will turn brownish red. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and add chives and pomegranate seeds.
To serve: Place game hens on a large platter with Italian parsley. Serve the sauce in a gravy boat on the side. Enjoy as I am sure you will!