It has been a few weeks now since I finished the Green Room Appreciation dinner for Austin Stone and I am finally putting up how-to pictures for the main dish.
That week in January was a busy. With a wedding meal for 50 on Monday and turning around that night to start shopping for the private dinner on Friday, I worked 18 hour days. Regardless, I never felt like I accomplished more than I at the end of Friday night.
The First course was a Butternut Squash Soup with Candied Pecans. Since it’s the middle of winter I felt this bright heart warming soup was a great way to kick off the night.
The main dish was a Quinoa stuff Cornish game hen with Chimay Glazed Brussel Sprouts – my nod to classical cooking with winter poultry and vegetables. The hens I was able to pick up weighed right at 1 1/2 pounds a piece which made half a bird a hearty meal for almost anyone. To make the process of eating easier and more enjoyable I de-boned the rib cage out from each bird, which made it easier to eat and allowed me to stuff the bird in a way that held its shape. I am posting a few how-to photos of this process. Do not fear, I accepted the help of Rex who never boned a hen but was interested in learning. After three birds he was confident in what he was doing and with every bird that passed through his hands his speed increased.
Step 1: Lay your bird out breast side down, and draw your boning knife down the spine from head to tail. Using short strokes with the tip of the knife, run the blade down the back, angled toward the ribs – taking care to remove as much meat as possible. When you come across the shoulder-blade of the hen, make sure to stay on top of it, placing the shoulder-blade between your blade and the rib cage.
Step 2 :When you hit the “hip” of the bird, grab the leg quarter and bend it towards the back until it pops out of joint. Do the same with the wing. This is a little gruesome but makes it easier to cut through the joint. Continue working around the rib cage till you hit the keel bone. If you have done this correctly you will have in one piece a wing, leg quarter, and breast with tender intact attached to the skin. Now is the time to celebrate take a breath and do the other side.
When you are finished with this, save the ribs and wing tips for stock! Everything is useful.
Step 3: Make sure to season the inside of the bird with salt and pepper. (for the dinner it seasoned over night) Take your stuffing and fill the rib cage cavity using the stuffing as a space and giving it shape. Pull the flaps of the back skin closed, and sew it back together using butchers twine and a needle or as I have done with a bamboo skewers.
Step 4: Now its time to start cooking. Make sure the skin’s dry by wiping it down with a paper towel. Rub all the skin with butter or olive oil (I used the olive oil for the dinner) season the skin with salt and pepper. Place on breast side up on a baking rack (for my test run I placed butter cubes on top). Most of it will melt off. If you’re using the olive oil method you don’t need to do this. Place the pan in a 375° oven and add liquid to the pan, such as white wine, stock, or water. I roasted these birds for at least 45 mins, but due to variations in oven, use a thermometer in the stuffing. You are looking for an internal temperature of 160°.
Step 5:When you have reached 160°, pull the hen out, taking care of the hot liquid in the pan. Cover it with foil or a towel and let it sit for 10 – 15 minutes. This allows the juices to stabilize in the meat and allows for carry over cooking. Pull the skewer out and draw a chef’s knife down between the breast of the bird, it should slice easily since you won’t hit any bones.
This whole process is a little time-consuming but its a great way to add wow factor to your next dinner. All food gets better with a little love and care.
(photo credit for the finished plate at the top goes to Roberta Cobb, our fearless Green Room Leader. The finish product photo is different from the step by step photos as the latter were taken during my test runs.)