Gallina al Horno - Roast Cornish Hens

This is one of our family favorites. I think it was Uncle Phillip who first got us into Cornish hens. I have never seen Cornish game hens on menus in Ponce, Puerto Rico (my parent's birthplace). Although they're probably served in the fancy joints in San Juan. Nevertheless, good ole Uncle Phillip, worldly-wise bon vivant that he was, introduced us to this great dish. In the island, guinea hens are the usual fowl cooked and served. In the Rivera family during out time in Spanish Harlem we came to love game hens and in our soirĂ©es we sometimes had to apportion two to a person. We served them two ways: stewed, or as given below, roasted. With an elegant white wine such  as a Sauvignon Blanc, or a
fruity, lightly chilled Bardolino, you can't go wrong with this one.

 (Roast Cornish Hens)

4 Cornish game hens (about 1 pound each)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme (can substitute dried if fresh not available)
4 medium Idaho or Maine potatoes, peeled and quartered (I prefer them unpeeled if organic)
2 cloves garlic peeled
8 whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup olive oil (some prefer extra-virgin, I prefer a full-bodied one)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Salt to taste
8 bacon strips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degree F.
2. Rinse Cornish hens inside and out under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.
3. Sprinkle half a teaspoon thyme in the cavity of each hen. Fold back the wings and tie legs securely with kitchen string. Place hens in a shallow foiled lined roasted pan with the foil lightly greased. Surround the hens with the potatoes and scatter the gizzards, necks and hearts around the hens. Reserve livers for some other use (unless you prefer livers that are charred or half burnt).
4. In a mortar, pound the garlic, peppercorns and oregano.
5. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, vinegar, crushed garlic, peppercorns, oregano and salt. Pour over the hens and potatoes, turning so that both hens and potatoes are coated with the mixture. Next, line each hen with two strips of bacon.
6. Roast for 30 minutes. Turn potatoes and continue roasting for another 30 minutes, basting frequently until hens are fork-tender and potatoes are golden brown.
    Yield; 4 servings.
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