Last night I made the mistake of asking My Pirate what he wanted for dinner. He asked for Cornish Game Hens. Who craves Cornish Game Hens? I never have in my entire life, except for a brief moment during a recent episode of Jaque Pepin’s latest cooking show on OPB where he pan fries boneless Cornish game hens. I knew without a doubt that trying to debone a game hen would land me in the ER having a Dan Akroyd/Julia Child moment with blood spurting all over the kitchen. Bad idea.
I threw that idea out and checked the new Jacques Pepin’s, Essential Pepin, which Charlie game me for my birthday and I simply didn’t have the ingredients for his suggested recipes or a sharp enough knife. So, I took my little game hens and seasoned the inner cavity with salt and pepper and then I decided to go pick some rosemary and bronze fennel out of my front garden. But once I snipped the rosemary I looked up to find my retired neighbor cradling my mailbox in his arms like a newborn. And I just tilted my head in a question and he yelled across the street, “I’ll fix it!”
Bill, his brother and roommate chortled at him while grasping his walker, “he hit the mailbox while backing in!”
“I’ll get it fixed…by tomorrow,” his brother repeated.
I walked across the street and said, “Can I at least paint it first? It’s a lovely shade of rust.” And I looked at Bill and his walker and asked, “What did you do to yourself? Did you fall off the roof or go spelunking? “
And he lifted up his right short leg to show me a big rectangular bandage and he said, “I got a new knee last Friday.”
“Congratulations!” I said, just like a cheerleader, minus the handclap.
And he looked at me and shook his head with a smile. I crossed back over the street feeling very much like the frog in Frogger cradling my rusty mailbox in my arms with a bouquet of herbs sticking out of my hands. Then I finished making dinner.
My Pirate was very happy. And I made a nice gravy by reducing the juices in the pan and whisking in some Wondra. Voila! Dinner was served. And I was grateful for My Pirate’s craving.
Roasted Cornish Game Hens with Herbs and Lemon
By Laura Heldreth
2 Cornish Game Hens—1 ½ pounds each
4 T. Very Dry Vermouth
¼ lemon cut in half
Bronze fennel foliage
2 springs rosemary
3 T. olive oil
2 frozen homemade chicken stock cubes (optional)
Salt and pepper
Heat oven to 450 degrees with your cast iron skillet inside.
Rinse and dry the game hens. Salt and pepper inside the cavity of the hens. Then fill the cavity with fennel, rosemary, and a wedge of lemon. Pour approximately 1 tablespoon of dry vermouth into each cavity. Then rub 1 tablespoon of olive oil into the skin of each game hen. Season with salt and pepper.
Carefully pull the hot cast iron skillet out of the oven. Pour 1 tablespoon of oil into the skillet and place the two game hens into the skillet. Slide into the oven. Bake for 25 minutes at 450 degrees.
Then turn the temperature down to 350 degrees. Add two chicken stock cubes and approximately 2 tablespoons of vermouth into the skillet. Close the oven. Bake the game hens for 20 more minutes. Baste once while they cook.
Remove the game hens onto a plate and tent with foil. And use the sauce as is, or thicken. Then serve.