By Riki Shore
When I was a kid, my mom used to make stuffed Cornish game hens for special occasions. Even though I didn’t love eating chicken, I adored getting a whole bird on my plate, filled with aromatic spices and dried fruits. The birds were juicy and delicious.
Healthy Family Farms sells Cornish game hens most weeks at our farmer’s market, and they are a reasonable price if you’re not trying to feed a crowd. We shared one bird and served it with roasted carrots and a green salad. The whole dinner for three of us cost less than $15.
The one real extravagance is the fennel pollen, which came from Spice Station for $17 an ounce. That’s right, $17 an ounce. The good news is this herb is so heady and wonderful that a little goes a very long way. I use it on poultry, to candy cashews, and to sprinkle on white chocolate bark. It’s unusual, powerful, and fun to keep in your flavor arsenal.
Let’s get started on the cornish game hens:
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon fennel pollan
1 Cornish game hen
1 bay leaf, broken in half
2 tablespoons fresh tangerine or orange juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, pressed
1/2 pound carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
1/2 cup chicken stock
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Mix the spices together in a small bowl.
3. Add the juice, olive oil and garlic, and stir into a paste.
4. Sprinkle the hen liberally with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, then spread the spice paste all over the bird.
5. Tie the legs together to help the hen hold its shape in the oven. Place the bird in the center of a small roasting pan and sprinkle the carrots all around it. Sprinkle the carrots with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, and roast 20 minutes.
6. Pour the chicken stock over the hen and carrots, and return the pan to the oven. Cook until the internal temperature of the bird is at least 160 degrees, basting occasionally with pan juices, about 30 minutes more.
7. Serve the hen and carrots alongside steamed rice or a crisp green salad for a complete meal.