Saturday, April 17, 2010

Cornish hens and polenta, a photo essay

So today I cooked Cornish hens with polenta and veggies, and took pictures all along as an experiment. It was a celebratory dinner, and as such it's not terribly healthy. However, all saturated fat and starch is in the polenta, so if one sticks to veggies and poultry, it is quite good for you and delicious!

The night before, I took about half a cup of olive oil and chopped in some fresh rosemary, added dry herbs and red chili pepper flakes, and left it to infuse overnight. Then I slathered the oil, rosemary and all, over two Cornish hens:

Roast at 400 F, 20-25 minutes per side. I start them breast down and in 25 minutes flip them over. Baste as needed.

The leftover oil is below. Notice the lovely green color. I saved it for vegetable grilling.

Cornish hens came with giblets, which I boiled with salt in 3 1/2 cups of water, to make quick chicken stock. Filtered the stock, brought to a boil, added one cup of cornmeal in a thin stream while whisking:

After the polenta thickened, I lowered the heat and turned my attention to the veggies. Asparagus is in season in New Jersey, and there's nothing better than local and fresh asparagus. With some grape tomatoes and sliced mushrooms. Brushed the leftover oil over it, and let it stand to absorb the flavor.

I then decided to make a glaze for the hens -- 1/3 cup honey, 1/4 cup sherry vinegar, 1/4 cup cooking Marsala, 1/4 soy sauce, and dried herbs+red chili flakes. Brought to a boil and let reduce and thicken over low heat:

Then it was time to fry some bacon! Chopped 2-3 slices into small pieces, cooked over medium heat to render. Add the grease to polenta. Also, while basting the Cornish hens, stole some of the drippings to add to polenta.

After cooking polenta for 35 minutes, added cooked bacon and cubed cheese.

While heating, stirred with a wooden spoon until cheese was well incorporated. I like my polenta thick, but feel free to add extra fluid to make it thinner.

By then, the hens were ready to come out of the oven:

And veggies were ready to go in. It takes 5-7 min at 400 F to roast them perfectly:

Quartered the hen and drizzled with glaze (it's dark but very tasty), served with polenta and veggies. The recipe took about an hour with prep.

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