Herbaceous Cornish Game Hen Recipe

So, then I made Cornish Game Hens. My husband adores me, and, upon my request, started picking up all the atypical meats he found while grocery shopping. I’m making this the second time tonight (I needed more carcasses for the stock) and made some modifications because i’m lazy.

I cruised the Interwebs for just the right recipe and decided I couldn’t find it. Well, time to get creative again! I originally found three different recipes that I took ideas from each. Here are the three original recipes, since I give credit where credit is due:

Juicy Cornish Game Hen

Herb-Roasted Cornish Game Hen

Herb-stuffed Roasted Cornish Game Hens

The proportions might be off since I measured a lot less with these and did a lot more “This looks good.” Also, most of my recipes are lacking salt. I am notorious for a lack of salt in my cooking, so please, you can generally add salt to taste in most portions of the recipe and be pretty safe, I would assume.

Cornish Game Hen Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cornish Game Hens
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, whole
  • 8 tablespoons of olive oil (divided)
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 3 tablespoons honey (preferably orange blossom honey)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons fresh sage
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons lemon peel (dried)
  • ½ cup chopped leek
  • ½ cup diced onion or shallot

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300°.
  2. Prepare glaze. To do this, mix minced garlic, 4 tablespoons olive oil, cayenne pepper, honey, lemon juice, and pepper. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Set aside.
  3. Prepare herbal mixture. Put into a food processor: four remaining cloves of garlic, parsley, thyme, sage, rosemary, and lemon peel. Process until finely chopped. Then, while it is running, add remaining olive oil. Take a portion of this mixture and slide under the skin of the bird and spread inside the cavity. Return to food processor (or keep in food processor if you did not remove).
  4. Take leeks and onions/shallots and either coat in remaining herbal mixture, if you want to keep the pieces large, or place in the food processor and process until chunky. Stuff mixture into cavity of birds.
  5. Place hens breast side down on the roasting pan. Glaze back side thickly with glaze and place in oven for 15 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and turn the hens over, baste thickly with glaze mix on breast side (up). Don’t forget in between wings and body! Return to oven for thirty five minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°. If necessary to crisp the skin, raise temperature to 400° very briefly (not more than five minutes, they will burn because of the honey!). Allow the bird to rest five to ten minutes. Serve birds whole, carving not necessary!
  7. Save carcasses for stock! No need to clean out leeks or onions, will be delicious in stock, too!
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Braised Rabbit And Asparagus in Lemon/Wine Sauce

So, I purchased a farm-raised rabbit from a butcher a few weeks ago when I was looking all over the place for a leg of lamb (long story). I never turn down the opportunity to pick up a rabbit. Ever. I love rabbit. Yes, I take care of bunnies at work, too. However, I found this amazing website that has a ton of great recipes that I can’t wait to try. I know nothing about the author, other than so far, his or her recipes are great! It’s honest-food.net and it’s fantastic! What caught my eye was a recipe that included making a rabbit stock. Boy, was I excited. I had jars, space in the freezer and a rabbit. Stock it was! As I perused the recipe, I realized I wanted to make changes to it. So I did. So, here’s the original: Coniglio Bianco, Italian Braised Rabbit, and below, is my version. Enjoy!

It says you will want at least two cottontail rabbits for three people. I got a farm-raised rabbit, so that’s probably one of the European ones. They’re a bit larger and have a slightly higher fat content. One was just enough to feed myself and my husband, although we were left wanting more because it was so delicious.

Stock Ingredients:

  • Ribs, neck and belly flaps from the rabbits
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 10 crushed juniper berries (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
  • Salt
  • One whole yellow onion, skin included, quartered

Instructions:

  1. Part up your rabbit(s) per these instructions: https://honest-food.net/how-to-cut-up-a-rabbit/
  2. Make a rabbit stock:
    1. Cover all the rabbit pieces — not just the stray ones — into a pot and cover them with cool water by about 1/2 inch, then add at least a cup of water for good measure. We’ll be cooking this longer than the original recipe! Bring this to a boil, then turn off the heat. Skim off any sludgy stuff that floats to the top. Fish out all the good pieces of rabbit — legs and saddle — and put them in a bowl in the fridge.
    2. Add the remaining stock ingredients, put everything in a crockpot and set on low. Leave overnight. Strain and set aside. Unlike most stocks, when it cools, you shouldn’t have a lot of fat to skim off the top.
    3. Best part is, if you add enough water, you won’t use all of it! Get some jars and save the rest in your freezer!

Braised Rabbit Ingredients:

  • 2 to 4 cottontails, snowshoe hares or domestic rabbits
  • Salt
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow or white onion, sliced root to stalk
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup white wine or vermouth (I used a dry riesling so I could drink the rest)
  • 1 cup quick rabbit stock (see above)
  • 5 to 6 cloves, roasted or preserved garlic
  • “Enough” asparagus (6-8 stalks per person)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • Two tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch (or 2, if needed to thicken more)

Instructions:

  1. The original instructions recommend a Dutch oven, but I don’t have one. Oops. I used a large pot. Heat the pot, then add oil. When it is shiny, add the sliced onions and cook until soft and translucent. Do not brown them. Add the white wine, 1 cup of the stock, the rabbit pieces from the fridge, the thyme and the garlic cloves. Bring to a simmer and add salt to taste (I didn’t use any, I don’t like salt). Turn the heat down to low, cover the pot and cook until the meat is tender, about 90 minutes to 2 hours.
  2. Approximately 15 minutes before serving, add the asparagus on top of the whole thing and the parsley on top of that. Allow it to “steam” over the braised rabbit. Then remove all the rabbit and asparagus pieces and arrange on a plate.
  3. Add the lemon juice and honey to the remaining liquid. Stir until honey is dissolved and juice is fragrant. Then add cornstarch and stir until thickened. If desired, add a dash of white wine.
  4. Dribble thickened sauce over rabbit and asparagus. Serve.

So I’m bad at blogging

I completely forgot I had this, I’ll admit. But a very kind reader liked what I wrote in one of my posts and I received an email today. I was very surprised and “Oh my goodness, this does exist!”

So, what better thing to do in my spare time today than to update things.

I still work as a zookeeper, I’m in between wildlife rehabilitation right now, and I’m rebuilding a garden that wood-boring insects destroyed. I had actually lost my own biscuit recipe and was delighted to find it again without having to go through the experimental process all over again!

Let’s start with work. I’ve come a long way. I’m doing training on a lot of animals and taking a really active role in documenting and working with the nutritional program for our captive birds and mammals. It’s fascinating, really. I’ve always been interested in nutrition, and–as evidenced by my efforts into creating a well-balanced raw diet for my own pets–that extends even to animals! I guess being a bit of a foodie pays off!

Garden. I think that’s what most of you want to hear about. I’m reconstructing a square foot garden with cinder blocks this time instead of wood, so the insects can’t get it this time. Each hole in the cinder blocks will also have an herb or some small plant of its own. It’ll be four foot by eight, with a wide variety of plants mushed together, square foot style. My seeds are arriving today, and I will get a few seedlings (like tomatoes, as I prefer to do those from seedlings, not seeds), once danger of frost has passed. It’ll be nice starting with fresh soil again.

Let’s see… I’ll try to remember to post more. Wish me the best of luck!

Four whole days

So, I’ve learned a lot about gardening in just this year and a half I’ve been doing it. I learned that no matter how detailed my “map” is, I will inevitable have something happen so that the only way I can id a plant is to wait for it to get bigger.

I’ve learned that I love raised bed box gardens, because the moles can’t get to my plants.

I’ve learned that the second year is harder than the first, because you had a whole year for seeds (tomato, grass and trees) to ‘infest’ your garden.

The most important thing I’ve learned so far, is that my garden thrives best when I neglect it a little bit.

I’m very lucky to live somewhere that has moderate temperatures (plant-wise) most of the year. I’m also very lucky that aside from the very middle of summer, I usually get enough rain that I only really need to water when the plants are very young and so their roots don’t reach far enough down to take advantage of the moisture capacity of the beds. Even in mid-summer we get fairly frequent thunderstorms. Things generally go awry when I fiddle too much with the garden, or can’t work in it for several weeks at a time. Otherwise, it does most of the work for me.

Also, I suck at thinning plants. I say, “Oh, it can grow a little more, that way I can let the [lettuce, spinach, carrot] get just a little bigger before I eat it!”

And tomato plants are weeds. Straight out invasive evil garden hogging weeds. Except really really tasty.

Inhuman Kindness

I am a zoo keeper for an AZA accredited facility, for you folks who don’t actually know me. I am also a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

Today was a banner day all around. This morning, I got a lovely view of my two fox kits. They are almost 5 weeks old, and developing their stunning adult markings. It’s going to be rough saying bye to those two, but as fast as they’re “wilding up,” they’ll be more than happy to leave humanity far behind!

Paul drove me to work, even, so he could help me tonight.

When I got to work, things went really smoothly, which is great, because I had stuff to do tonight. I’ll get to that later.

I’m at work, when my coworker texts me with, “Come to front of building if you want to see baby beavers.” I literally put whatever was in my hands down. I honestly don’t remember what it was. Then I started heading over as fast as I could.

This next paragraph is potentially gross.

This man had watched the car in front of him hit a beaver. He pulled off the road and saw that it was a female with enlarged teats. He noticed that she wasn’t producing milk, and saw the babies moving in her belly. He put the dead mom on the back of his truck, performed an emergency c-section and rescued her entire litter of six 1-2 week premature baby beavers. He tied umbilical cords, cleared their airways, got them breathing and cleaned them up.

He did a fantastic job. And then asked if we knew a rehabilitator who would take them.

My wildlife sponsor is a beaver specialist and jumped at the chance! And as cute as they are, I wished I could!

To top it all off, after work we drove a ways away to return to someone’s home who had brought me a bat in January. I got to climb a really tall ladder and release my first bat into the wild! It went great!

Now I am totally exhausted. But very very happy.

Becca’s Biscuit Recipes

Ok, people have asked and they shall receive! So far, I’m only thrilled with the crumbly biscuit, but maybe you’ll have better luck with the flaky version.

Since no two people gave me the same answer on what they consider the perfect biscuit, I will give the basics, and then detail how to tailor it to your preferences. For those of you science types, I will explain why things work by request, so that you, too, can fiddle with the recipe until its just like you want it.

Becca’s Basic Biscuit Batter (yeah, I know it’s a dough but that doesn’t start with B)

Makes appx 10 biscuits depending on how big you make them.

1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cake flour
1 tablespoon (double acting) baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white granulated sugar (for sweeter biscuits use 2 tbsp)
1/3 cup unsalted butter (or shortening)
1 cup buttermilk or whole milk (see notes)

All versions use the same ingredients, it’s just how you put them together.

In a large bowl, whisk flours, baking powder, salt and sugar together. Lightly spray a cookie sheet (I use butter flavored Pam) and set aside. Fill an oven safe dish with water and place on the top rack of the oven. I do this with all of my baking now. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, 218 Celsius.

Using a food processor, or your hands, mix butter and shortening into flour mixture. For warm butter or shortening, mix until the flour resembles coarse breadcrumbs. This makes a middle of the road moisture biscuit. Good for soaking up lots of juice. For cold/slightly frozen butter, mix until all the butter pieces are fairly small (about pea sized) and a little flattened. It will look kind of chunky. Return the entire bowl to the fridge to chill the butter again. I use my fingers, so it gets pretty soft in the mixing process.

You can use either whole milk or buttermilk in the biscuits. I use a buttermilk substitute which I will explain afterwards in the notes. Add a little milk at a time, mixing it gently into the flour mixture. For flaky biscuits, stop when the dough is holding together. For crumbly biscuits, you want the resulting mixture to be wet. Not sopping, mind you, but it should look like cottage cheese.

This is where the technique varies wildly.

For flaky biscuits, knead dough two to three times. Not much. On a lightly floured surface, roll or flatten out and cut out your biscuits. I hate using the glass because the extra dough left over is either wasted, or heretically rerolled and makes tough, chewy biscuits. Use as little kneading as possible. I cut biscuits with a knife into squares so I don’t waste the dough.

For crumbly biscuits, have a more heavily floured surface. Using a spoon or ice cream scoop, scoop a couple of spoonfuls of dough onto your surface (as separate lumps, not all together). With well-floured hands, gently coat the outside of the wet dough with flour. This makes it so you can handle it. Do not knead at all, but just make it into the round shape of your biscuits. Be very careful to shake off excess flour. It’s not tasty on the final result.

This is when the directions converge again. Make sure that you place your biscuits tightly together. Smush them just a little. This helps keep inside moist and then they have no room except to go up!

Bake the biscuits on the middle of your oven at 425. For crumbly biscuits, bake for 13-15 minutes. For soft outsides, you want it to just barely start to turn golden on each biscuit. For crisper, wait until the top is golden (but not brown). Brown is bad mm’kay? The flaky ones seem to cook much faster, say 10-12 minutes.

Take them out, let cool for a minute or so, then enjoy!

Notes

For crumbly biscuits, you can use shortening or butter, or even half butter and half shortening. For flaky biscuits, it has to be cold butter. I chop my butter into pea-sized pieces before using. You can put the butter in the freezer for a few minutes after chopping so that it’s very cold when you mix it in. I like cold or cooler butter over room temperature. Why? Because as it baked in the oven, the butter melts and its like your biscuits came pre-buttered out of the oven!

Buttermilk substitute: I don’t usually keep buttermilk at the house, so I learned this trick. One tablespoon of lemon juice into a measuring cup. Add whole milk until it reaches the one cup line. Let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes, so that it curdles.

That’s what I can think of right now. Any questions?

Food Adventures

I’ve been trying to learn how to eat seasonally, as well as trying new foods to add to my variety.

There’s a local butcher that often carries unusual meats. One time, I was even able to purchase kangaroo steaks. If they were closer, I’d be in a lot of danger of spending most of my money there! I went to visit them because I was looking for goat meat. I got a leg piece, but also ended up going home with some “beef mountain oysters.” I’ve never eaten bull balls before. Thankfully, one of the butchers was so excited to see someone willing to try weird food, that he took the time to tell me how to cook them. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to eat them, but I’ll tell all once I have.