Norman Apple Hens
My master’s degree from Oxford is in English literature, so it’s no surprise that sometimes in my cooking I wax poetic and get a bit punny with my food. For Mother’s Day, I do just that, preparing Cornish Hens with Spring Vegetables (as in Mother hen, Baby vegetables). Then I added sweet roasted pearl onions, for what little girl didn’t wear her mother’s pearls growing up? If you can’t be a bit precious on Mother’s Day, when can you?
I use the Cornish Game Hens (use Poussins or Coquelets in the UK) because Mother’s Day dinner should be comforting but still a bit dainty and dressed up. Think of all the roast chickens your mother has made for you. Tell her that it was her roast that inspired you, but you wanted to make it special by making miniature, individual birds, and giving them a fancy French makeover. These hens are flavored with the apple and bacon and thyme of Normandy. The birds marinate and tenderize overnight in dry Norman apple cider, are wrapped in rich unsmoked bacon, and fired under Calvados, Norman apple brandy. There is a very delicate sweetness that moistens the meat from the liquors, and the thyme and bacon give an unmistakable earthy woodsiness to the birds. These are your mother’s Sunday roast chicken, but so much more special and thoughtful, just like mom.
Norman Apple Hens
- 4 Cornish game hens
- 2 cups Norman apple cider, known as dry cidre bouché
- 3 stems thyme, plus 6 stems
- 10 ounces/283 grams pearl onions, peeled
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
- Salt and pepper
- 4 slices pancetta, or unsmoked streaky bacon
- ¼ cup Calvados
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- The night before you want to cook these, cut the back bone out of each hen so that they have been “butterflied.” Simply sit each bird on its bottom, and run a sharp knife down along either side of its backbone, effectively removing it. Or, just ask your butcher to take care of it for you. Place the four hens in a large sealable plastic storage bag, and add in 2 cups of Norman apple cider (drink the rest!), and 3 stems of thyme. Place the bag into a bowl, and set in the fridge over night.
- The day after, when you are ready to make the meal, take the hens out of the fridge to take the chill off, and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F/218 degrees C.
- If you can buy your pearl onions frozen and already peeled, then do it. If you can’t, here’s how to peel them without all the fuss. Trim their tops and bottoms off, and put them in boiling water for 2 minutes. Run them under cool water so that you can handle them, and pop them out of their outer layers.
- Toss the pearl onions with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
- Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with aluminum foil. Drain the birds of the marinade, and pat them dry with paper towel. Rub the birds with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, both the top and under sides, and season with salt and pepper. Nest each bird, cut side down, on the baking sheet, and scatter the seasoned pearl onions around them.
- On top of each bird, sprinkle some of the leaves from 6 stems of thyme, and place 1 slice of pancetta over the center of the breast. If you can’t find sliced pancetta, and are using unsmoked bacon, you’ll want to cut the bacon in half and drape the two halves over the bird.
- Cover the birds with aluminum foil, and roast for 20 minutes. Then remove the foil, and roast another 25 minutes. The internal temperature should be about 180 degrees F/82 degrees C.
Raspberry Corn Madeleines
As I wrote last month, Madeleines are to me the quintessential decadent breakfast of my childhood. But our tough times require us to rework decadent into everyday. These Madeleines are made from 49-cent Jiffy corn muffin mix, scented with the zests of orange and lemon, and stuffed with good raspberry jam. They have the distinct French shape with an unmistakable American flavor and ingenuity. Maybe tough times aren’t so hard to swallow after all…
Especially if you wash them down with a glass of cold milk or dunk them in your morning coffee.
As always, the full recipe and the full article text for this week’s French in a Flash is on Serious Eats! Bon app!
80-Cent Citrus Corn-Muffin Madeleines with Raspberry Confiture
- 1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup whole milk
- Zest of 1/2 orange
- Zest of 1/2 lemon
- 1/4 cup good quality raspberry jam or preserves (recommended: Bonne Maman)
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the corn muffin mix, egg, milk, and citrus zests. Allow to sit for 4 minutes. Then stir again quickly just before dolloping it into the Madeleine pans.
- Spray one 12-madeleine pan with nonstick cooking spray, or grease lightly with vegetable oil or butter. Spoon one overflowing tablespoon full of batter into each shell mold. Bake for 8 minutes.
- After 8 minutes in the oven, pull the madeleines out. Using a pastry bag filled with the raspberry jam, and a tip that is narrow enough to poke a precise hold in the madeleines, but wide enough not to get blocked up by seeds, stab a hole halfway into the center of each madeleine, and pipe the jam in slowly just until the jam fills the hole and starts coming out around the top of the madeleine. Little bullet holes for bleeding hearts. Bake 2 to 4 more minutes—2 minutes until done; 4 minutes until golden and crisp.
- Now you have some traditional French cakes flavored with a dash of American ingenuity. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool, or eat warm with extra jam and a cold glass of milk. Parfait!
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Muscat Grapes and Muscat Wine
I know we’re in the middle of a recession, but if I have one culinary extravagance, it’s fruit. I’d rather spend $2 on a pear that’s perfect, than $1 on a pear that’s hard as rock or mushy as meal and have to throw it away. Isn’t that devastating?! I even have a fruit dealer at my local market who can pick the perfect pear or pomegranate or plum or pomelo every time (he also, coincidentally, knocks some of the price off for me–thanks!).
Three years ago, my “dealer” introduced me to my latest addiction. I was at the market picking up my daily bread and cheese, and I wanted something to go with it. He smiled a grim little grin, like he knew he was letting me in for it. He plucked a perfect, plump grape, a lighter shade of pale green blushing Victorian rose. I popped it in my mouth, and my knees felt weak. Love at first bite. I knew at that moment that it was no apple in the Garden of Eden; there is only one fruit worth falling for, and it is the Muscat grape. The only catch? They were over $10 per pound. I actually saved up for grapes.
Now, April doesn’t mean rain showers. It doesn’t mean daffodils. It means that tiny window of Muscat grape eating is here again, and I’ve been eating them at a rate of about a bunch per day for the last week. Why? Because it seems that even Muscat grape stock is down! They’re selling at Whole Foods for just $2.99 per pound; only 50 cents more than regular unreliable sweet-tart green table grapes.
They taste of sweet flowers and what I imagine ambrosia must have tasted like. Sweet and fresh and fragrant. And you can wash them down with a glass of muscat dessert wine (made in France!).
The Musketeers were all for one, and one for all. I’m all for one thing too: Muscat! A Muscateer pour toujours!
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Posted by Kerry |
Digging for lemons in the Covered Market, Oxford
The BBC Radio Oxford website is up! It is in its skeletal form, but eventually, all the recipes, pictures, and links will be posted HERE.
Every time I use it, people gape, mouth askew, and demand, “What is that?”
Pomegranate Molasses Cookies
Actually, I have many secret ingredients, and now I have another new series at Serious Eats to showcase them. I love to shop, from Prada to parsley, and I hardly make it out of a gourmet shop without some little bottle of some dashing elixir tucked away for further use. Most of the time, they sound so appealing in the shop, but then they just sit there, alone and neglected in my pantry, and I have buyer’s remorse, just like when a dress goes unworn in my closet.
Pomegranate Molasses BBQ Ribs
So, I’ve taken to experimenting: uncovering esoteric ingredients, and telling you what they are, where they come, and what to do with them, recipes included. March’s Secret Ingredient is one of my all-time favorites: Pomegranate Molasses, cheap and chic (and sweet/tart!). And in this month’s installment, I show you how to make Pomegranate Molasses and Pine Nut Cookies, and Pomegranate Molasses Barbecue Sauce for Pomegranate Molasses BBQ Pork Ribs.
Now, I’m sharing this secret with you. But shh! Don’t you tell on me…