A lot of people are unsure of what a Cornish game hen is, and I think it tends to scare some folks away from cooking with them. The fancy name makes some people think of other birds like pheasant or quail, but in reality, they are nothing more than young chickens, so don’t be afraid.
This dish may look complicated, but it really isn’t. The 1 1/2 hour cooking time for the birds gives you plenty of time to make the sauce and any side dishes of your choosing while the hens are roasting.
2 Cornish game hens
½ quart heavy cream
1½ sticks unsalted butter
1 package fresh sage (7-10 stalks)
3 Asian pears, cored and cut into 12 pieces each, tossed in juice of lemon to keep from oxidizing
Juice of one lemon (for pears)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
½ tsp white pepper (you can substitute fresh ground black pepper)
½ tsp kosher salt
4 tbsp Bird Rub (recipe follows)
2 tbsp kosher salt
2 tbsp garlic powder (not garlic salt)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp gorgonzola (optional)
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees
- Rinse hens inside and out with cold water, then pat dry with a towel inside and out. Coat the birds with vegetable oil and season heavily inside and out with Bird Rub. Place the hens, breast side up in a 9X13 baking dish.
- Cover dish and place in preheated oven for 1 ½ hours.
- While the birds are cooking, melt the butter in a six quart stock pot on medium high heat. You want the butter to simmer, but not burn, so keep a close eye on it.
- Add the sage, stalks and all, to the butter and simmer for about 8 minutes until all the color is gone from the sage.
- Remove all of the sage and stalks, and add the pears. Stir to coat, and cook on medium high heat for 15 minutes stirring occasionally.
- After 15 minutes, add the brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, stirring until well mixed. Cover the pot, and continue cooking on medium high for an additional 50 minutes to soften the pears, stirring about every 10 minutes.
- Add heavy cream to pear mixture stirring constantly until cream starts to simmer. Reduce heat to low and let simmer, stirring occasionally, to blend flavors.
- When birds have been cooking for one hour and fifteen minutes, turn oven up to 500 degrees and remove the cover to brown the skins.
- After 1 ½ hours in the oven (internal temp of birds; 165-170 degrees), remove the hens and set aside to rest (covered with foil) while you finish the sauce.
- Add salt and white pepper to the mixture and stir evenly. Remove pear mixture from heat, and transfer to a food processor (this may have to be done in two steps in order to fit). Very carefully, puree mixture on high speed until sauce is a smooth consistency. In the restaurant, we put the sauce through a cheese cloth for a smoother finish, but this is not absolutely necessary at home.
- When the birds have rested sufficiently, about 7 minutes, carefully split each hen down the middle with a heavy chef’s knife and plate, skin side up, on four dinner plates, and ladle the pear sauce over the top.
When I make this dish at home, I like to sprinkle some fresh gorgonzola or Maytag Blue cheese over the birds to melt into the sauce. If you are a fan of these cheeses, I highly recommend it. If you’re not a fan, trust me, you don’t want to do it, but to me the combination of sage, pear and gorgonzola is too good to pass up.
Also, because the sauce is pretty heavy, I usually serve this with rice pilaf and roasted white asparagus, but you choose which sides you’d like best. The cooking process for this dish will allow you plenty of time to prepare any side dishes you like.