Cornish Hens With Peppercorn Red Wine Sauce

I found this recipe in a folder deep in my file cabinet, written in my hand on radio stationery and dated 1988. I remembered it only vaguely. So I cooked it, and liked it enough to know that a) it’s not an original recipe of mine and b) I wish I had thought of it. It’s very French in style, and turns the chicken-like Cornish hen (which I rather like anyway) into something wonderful. Try to find the demi-glace this thing calls for. You can now buy demi in gourmet food stores and gourmet-to-go places. And if you have a good relationship with a restaurant, they may sell it to you, as well.

Cornish hen Paradis.

  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 1/2 small onion, cut in half and pulled apart
  • 1/2 tsp. marjoram
  • 2 Cornish hens
  • 12 oz. rich duck pate de campagne
  • 6 thick slices smoky bacon
  • 1 tsp. chopped shallots
  • 1 tsp. chopped garlic
  • 2 Tbs. green peppercorns (the marinated kind, not dried)
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1 cup Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot
  • 1/2 cup demi-glace
  • 4 cups cooked rice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

1. Heat the butter in a skillet and sauté the onion and the marjoram until the onion is soft. Remove from the heat.

2. Salt and pepper the hens. When the onions are cool enough to handle, line the inside of the Cornish hens’ cavities with single layers of them. Divide the pate into two portions and stuff the hens’ cavities with it. With string, tie the legs closed over the cavity.

3. Wrap the hens with the bacon, holding it in place with toothpick.

4. Heat the butter in a large, ovenproof skillet and sear the hens until the bacon has begun to crisp.

5. Put the skillet into a preheated 375-degree oven. Roast for 35 minutes.

4. Remove the pan from the oven and the Cornish hens from the pan. Leave the oven on. Pour off excess fat from the pan, but don’t wipe. Over medium heat, add the shallots and garlic; sauté for about a minute.

5. Add the peppercorns and brandy. (Be careful–the brandy might flame briefly.) Bring the brandy to a boil for about 30 seconds, then add the wine and demi-glace. Bring that to a light boil and reduce for five or six minutes, until the sauce thickens enough to coat a spoon. Add salt and pepper to taste.

6. Remove toothpicks and strings from the hens. Cut in halves from front to back, and place on plates. Pour the sauce around the hens, and put the plates into the oven for two or three minutes to warm everything back up to temperature. Serve with wild rice.

Serves four.

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