Roasted Cornish Game Hens with Lemon and Herbs

Cornish game hens are a great way to make a special meal out of what is essentially just ordinary chicken. There’s something festive about having your own tiny roast bird on your plate; it’s one of my favorite things to make for Christmas dinner.

Brining in buttermilk overnight helps make the hens extra tender and juicy, and also makes the roasting process more forgiving — it’s hard to go wrong! The only problem I’ve ever run into is overcrowding in the oven. I once tried to roast 12 hens at once (two sheet pans with six hens each, on two oven racks) for a big family gathering, and while they tasted great they never got the deep golden color that makes the dish so appealing.

Adapted from Kitchen Confidante’s Buttermilk Brined Cornish Hens.

Serves 4-8 (1 hen per person, or half for a more modest portion size)

Ingredients

4 Cornish game hens, rinsed and patted dry
6 cups buttermilk
1 tbsp salt
2 tsp cayenne
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp dried thyme
juice of 1 lemon
1 lemon, cut in quarters
4 cloves garlic
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
paprika (sweet)

In a large bowl or pot, combine the buttermilk, salt, cayenne, garlic powder, thyme and lemon juice. Place the hens in the brine, making sure they are mostly submerged. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Take the bowl out of the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and adjust a rack to the lower-middle position.

Remove the hens from the brine and pat dry. Place a lemon quarter, garlic clove and rosemary sprig in each cavity. Truss the hens with cooking twine (I did a variation of the technique in this video; give yourself at least 2 feet of twine to work with for each hen).

Place the hens on a rack in a roasting pan or sheet pan. Rub the skins with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika. Roast until the hens are a deep golden brown and the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees, about 1 hour.

Pictured: Corning Ware White A-21-B-N Open Roaster

Sausage, Apricot and Pecan Stuffing

My go-to recipe for stuffing comes from Cooks Illustrated — it takes some time, but it’s straight-forward and delicious. My only complaint is that the original version makes too much stuffing, especially if you’re not planning to stuff the turkey. And let’s face it: Cooking the stuffing on the side just gives you more exciting options for the turkey itself (e.g., spatchcocking, deep frying, etc.).

So here, I’ve scaled the recipe back a bit to make it more manageable, and modified it for baking in a casserole dish. It’s suitable for a 13×9 baking pan or 3-quart casserole.

Adapted from Cooks Illustrated’s Bread Stuffing with Sausage, Pecans and Dried Apricots (The New Best Recipe, America’s Test Kitchen 2004).

Ingredients

1 loaf french bread (1 pound)
1 1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 lb sweet Italian sausage
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped
3 celery ribs, chopped
heaping 1/4 tsp each dried sage, thyme and marjoram
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
heaping 1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
2/3 cup dried apricots, sliced in thin strips (about 1/4 lb)
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Divide the bread into thirds; save 1/3 for another use, and cut the rest into 1/2-inch slices. Arrange the slices in a single layer on a sheet pan and bake for 30-40 minutes. The bread should end up dried but not browned. Once it has cooled slightly, cut the bread into 1/2-inch cubes and set aside.

Turn the oven up to 350 degrees. Spread the pecans out on the sheet pan and toast in the oven until fragrant, about 6-8 minutes. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the sausage (casings removed, if there are any), breaking it up into bite-size pieces, until browned and no pink remains. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

Remove excess grease from the pan, then add the butter. Saute the onions and celery until soft and translucent, about 6-8 minutes. Add the sage, thyme, marjoram and pepper and cook 1 minute more. Transfer to the bowl with the sausage and stir.

Stir the parsley, apricots, pecans and salt into the sausage mixture, then top with the bread cubes. In a separate bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the broth and eggs, then pour over the bread cubes.

Fold the bread cubes into the sausage mixture until thoroughly mixed. Spread the stuffing out into a buttered baking dish, tamping it down gently with a spoon or spatula to fill the dish evenly. (At this point you can cover and refrigerate overnight if desired. Let it sit out at room temperature for about 30 minutes before baking.)

Dot the surface of the stuffing with small bits of butter. Cover with a piece of buttered aluminum foil and bake until hot throughout, about 25-30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake about 15 minutes more, until the top is golden brown.

Pictured: Corning Ware Floral Bouquet Third Edition A-3-B Casserole, Pyrex Town and Country 444 Cinderella Mixing Bowl, Pyrex Town and Country 443 Cinderella Mixing Bowl, Pyrex Spring Blossom 2 403 Round Mixing Bowl, Pyrex Measuring Cup, Glasbake French Casserole

Thanksgiving 2018

It’s an all-Corning Ware Thanksgiving! At least for my own cooking. I’m not hosting this year, but I signed myself up for a lot of sides. Corning Ware was a natural choice because it can go from fridge to oven to stove to microwave without any problems. And I went with patterns that would go well with pretty much anything else on the table.

On the menu:

  • No-Cook Cranberry Relish (recipe)
  • Cauliflower and Brussels Sprout Gratin (recipe)
  • Sweet & Smoky Mashed Sweet Potatoes (recipe)
  • Bread Stuffing with Sausage, Pecans and Dried Apricots (from Cooks Illustrated’s The New Best Recipe)

Pictured: Corning Ware Floral Bouquet Third Edition A-1 1/2-B Casserole, Corning Ware Floral Bouquet Third Edition A-3-B Casserole, Corning Ware French White F-12-B Casserole, Corning Ware French White F-2-B Casserole

Sweet & Smoky Mashed Sweet Potatoes

I like sweet potatoes, but I’ve never been a fan of that ubiquitous Thanksgiving casserole involving sweet potatoes, sugar and marshmallows. Instead, I lean toward the savory side — sweet potatoes are sweet enough on their own without all that extra sugar, after all.

In this recipe, chipotle adds a smoky flavor that is subtle enough to complement most other Thanksgiving dishes. We’ll be enjoying it tomorrow with turkey and all the trimmings.

 

Ingredients

3 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled
4 tbsp butter
3 tbsp heavy cream
1 tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice (about 1 lime)
1 chipotle pepper (canned in adobo sauce), minced
1 tsp adobo sauce
1/2 tsp salt

Using your preferred method, cook the sweet potatoes until fork tender. (You can boil or steam them, or use a sous vide machine if you have it: Sous vide is a handy technique because you can attain perfect doneness with very little effort. I cooked my sweet potatoes with the sous vide for 45 minutes at 194 degrees – basically this recipe, minus the seasoning.)

In a small saucepan, combine the butter and cream and cook over low heat until the butter is melted.

Mash the sweet potatoes with the butter and cream in a large bowl. Add the lime juice, chipotle, adobo sauce and salt and continue mashing until smooth.

Pictured: Pyrex Town and Country 444 Cinderella Mixing Bowl, Pyrex Spring Blossom 401 Round Mixing Bowl, Corning Ware French White F-12-B Casserole, Corning Ware Blue Cornflower P-89-B Lipped Saucepan

No-Cook Cranberry Relish

If you need a change of pace from traditional cranberry sauce, this tangy no-cook version is an easy and delicious way to bring something new to your Thanksgiving table. The texture is more like a relish or salsa than a sauce, but it pairs just as well with turkey. I’ve also seen it layered over cream cheese to serve as a spread with crackers.

Ingredients

2 lbs fresh cranberries
2 navel oranges
1 tbsp ginger, peeled and minced (or grated)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup finely chopped mint

In a food processor, pulse about half the cranberries until they are coarsely chopped, then transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

Remove the zest of one orange with a vegetable peeler, chop the zest into smallish pieces, and add to the food processor. Using a sharp knife, remove the peel and pith from both oranges. Then cut the orange sections away from their membranes and add the sections to the food processor. Add the rest of the cranberries, the ginger and sugar and pulse until finely chopped.

Combine both sets of chopped cranberries, add the mint and stir until well mixed. Cover and refrigerate overnight before serving.

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Pictured: Corning Ware Floral Bouquet Third Edition A-1 1/2-B Casserole, Pyrex Spring Blossom 401 Round Mixing Bowl, Pyrex Spring Blossom 2 403 Round Mixing Bowl

No-Knead Harvest Bread

No-knead bread is so easy, and comes out so good, I rarely make any other kind. The technique uses a wet dough and ultra-long rise to generate flavor and gluten without the physical work of kneading. There’s really no other bread recipe that gives you a better ratio of low effort to incredible result.

The main thing to remember is that you need about 22 hours total from the time you start to when the bread is ready to eat. Very little of that time is active prep time, but you do need to plan your bread-making schedule in advance. The dough is very forgiving, though, so there’s a lot of wiggle room in the timing.

Here I used pumpkin to give the bread a nice fall color and tender texture. But you can omit the pumpkin and still end up with an excellent loaf — just increase the water to 1 1/3 cup (300 grams). You can also swap out the rye flour for whole wheat or just bread flour.

Adapted from the Basic No-Knead Bread Recipe in Jim Lahey’s My Bread (I highly recommend this cookbook — it is full of terrific breads, some unique, top-notch pizzas and a bunch of sandwich and other bread-related recipes).

Ingredients

2 3/4 cups bread flour (367 grams)
1/4 cup rye flour (33 grams)
1 1/4 tsp salt (8 grams)
1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup plus 2 tbsp water
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
yellow cornmeal

In a large bowl, stir together the two flours, salt and yeast.

Combine 1 cup of water with the pumpkin puree in a separate bowl and stir until smooth. Add to the flour mixture, then stir until completely incorporated. The result should be a wet, sticky dough that forms a shaggy ball. If the dough feels dry, add the remaining 2 tbsp of water a little at a time as needed.

Cover the bowl lightly with plastic wrap, then let rise at room temperature for about 18 hours. When the dough is ready, it will have more than doubled in size and spread out from edge to edge of the bowl. The surface should be dimpled all over with bubbles.

Using a floured spatula, scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a floured surface, keeping it in one piece. It will be sticky and stringy. Fold the dough in half on itself a few times and shape into a ball. Make sure the top and bottom of the ball are well floured, then cover loosely with a smooth (not terry-cloth) towel and let rise until almost doubled, about 1-2 hours. (I like to use a floured proofing basket for this step because it makes a pretty loaf, but it’s not essential.)

Preheat oven to 475 degrees and place a heavy pot (about 5-quart size, preferably cast iron), covered, on a rack in the lower third position. When the oven and pot are up to temperature and the dough is ready, take the pot out of the oven and remove the lid.

Dust the bottom of the dough lightly with cornmeal and gently drop it into the hot pot.  Don’t worry if it’s not perfect — it will even out on its own. You can score the top of the dough if you wish, but it will typically open up natural cracks as it bakes.

Cover the pot (remember it’s hot!), return to the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for another 15-30 minutes. When the bread is done, the crust should be dark golden brown and the internal temperature of the loaf should be roughly 190 degrees.

Remove the loaf from the pot (a heat-proof spatula, spoon, tongs and/or pot holders help) and set it on a rack to cool for at least 1 hour. Cutting into it too early will result in a gummy texture. If desired, reheat the bread for 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven before serving.

Pictured: Pyrex Town and Country 444 Cinderella Mixing Bowl, Pyrex Town and Country 443 Cinderella Mixing Bowl, Pyrex Measuring Cup

7 Steps to Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs

For years, I was a devotee of the Julia Child method for cooking hard-boiled eggs. Essentially, it’s a cold-start process: Begin with eggs in cold water, bring to a boil, then turn off the heat, cover and let sit for 17 minutes. But recently I switched to a hot-start process, and I’ve become convinced that the outcome is superior. The main difference: Plunging the eggs into boiling water makes them easier to peel. While I’m hardly the first person to discover this, it’s a method that bears repeating. Here are my seven steps to hard-boiled success:

  1. Plan ahead: The fresher the eggs, the harder they are to peel, so if you are planning to make something with a lot of hard-boiled eggs (deviled eggs, potato salad, egg salad, etc.), try to buy your eggs a few weeks in advance.
  2. Let the eggs warm up a bit: Set them out on the counter for about half an hour to lose their refrigerator chill. This helps prevent them from cracking when you first drop them into boiling water.
  3. Fill a pot with a few inches of water (enough to cover the eggs) and bring to a boil. The pot should be large enough to hold the eggs in a single layer.
  4. Turn the heat down to low, then use a slotted spoon to gently lower the eggs into the pot.
  5. Adjust the heat to a very low simmer (barely bubbling) and cook the eggs for 10-11 minutes. The yolks should end up cooked through but still moist, not chalky. Timing depends on the intensity of the simmer, so it takes a little practice to get a precise result.
  6. Plunge the eggs into a bowl of ice water to stop cooking.
  7. Peel and enjoy! Season with salt and fresh-ground black pepper. I also like to add paprika (sweet or smoked), cayenne, chipotle powder, chili powder or creole seasoning for a little extra flavor and spice.

Pictured: Corning Ware White B-2 1/2 Buffet Server, Corning Ware French White F-15-B Oval Casserole