For smaller Thanksgiving gatherings and for dinner parties all winter long, consider serving Rock Cornish Hens—one per person—instead of a traditional turkey. The little birds are deliciously succulent, don’t need brining and take under an hour to cook. A hit all around and delicious paired with typical Thanksgiving sides. Or for a family meal, serve simply with a salad and mashed potatoes. However, for Thanksgiving or Christmas or to turn any event into a special occasion, try the sumptuous wild rice dish below. With its rich and nutty flavor, the grain (“rice” is a misnomer) is sublime, and enhanced with mixed mushrooms, green peas and aromatics, even better. Happy holidays.
ROAST CORNISH GAME HENS WITH WILD RICE
6 Cornish Hen each weighing about1 1-4 pounds each
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons chicken fat or olive oil
1. Preheat the oven to 450F.
2. Mix the butter and fat or oil together. Loosen the skin around the breast and thighs of the birds with your hands, being careful not to tear it. Force half the butter mixture under the skin and rub it all over the outside of the birds. Then season inside and out with salt and pepper. Place cornish hens, breast sides down on a rack in a roasting pan.
3. Roast for 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Turn the bird breast side up and lower the heat to 350. Pour the 1/2 cup chicken stock into the roasting pan.
3. Cooking another 30-50 minutes, basting frequently. Cover the breast loosely in foil if it is browning too quickly.
4. The hens are done when the point of a knife inserted into the thigh are clear rather than pink.
5. Transfer the cooked birds to a cutting board and cover loosely with foil. Let stand at least 10 minutes before serving. While the birds are resting, degrease the pan juices and deglaze the roasting pan with a few tablespoons of chicken stock and add to the sauce.
For the wild rice:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup diced onion
2 cloves minced garlic
Several sprigs fresh thyme
2 ounces dried wild mushrooms such as morels, porcini, chanterelles or a mixture, soaked in 2 cups warm water for 30 minutes, drained and chopped. Liquid reserved.
2 cups rinsed and drained wild rice
4-5 cups chicken stock
Salt, freshly ground black pepper, and Tabasco Sauce to taste
2 cups frozen green peas, thawed
1. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan and sauté the onion, garlic, and thyme over medium heat until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Stir in the drained mushrooms and cook five minutes more. Stir in the rice and cook 1 more minute.
2. In a medium saucepan, bring the stock to a boil. Pour 4 cups of it over the rice and bring back to a boil. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and turn down to a simmer. Cook 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the rice is done. Add more broth while cooking as necessary.
3. Stir in thawed peas and heat through.