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Name:Cornish Game Hen Stuffed w/ Goat Cheese Contributor:Lark
Description:Rock Cornish game hen stuffed with goat cheese Posted:2005-10-17
Key words:spinach, goat cheese, pine nuts Category:Main Dishes
ID:646 Updated:2006-04-01 13:41:47
Ingredients:1 24-oz frozen Rock Cornish game hen (Tyson, bought in the frozen poultry section at Top Foods), thawed.

Per bird:
~2 c (packed) baby raw spinach
2 oz goat cheese (I used the one that comes in a toilet paper tube sized package, available at Costco and the deli section at several local food markets)
2 Tbsp raw pine nuts
pinch cumin seed
dash of garlic powder
salt (to draw the water from the spinach)

2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp kosher salt
Preparation:Coarsely chop the spinach, then steam or nuke with a little water til limp
put spinach in a bowl with maybe 1/4 cup of salt. Mix. Wait a couple of minutes.
Strain and squeeze to remove water. Repeat.

Pre-heat oven to 350F.
In a bowl, mix goat cheese, pine nuts, cumin seed and spinach and a dash of granulated garlic.
Stuff cavity with the mixture
Place the bird breast up on a rack in a broiler pan.
Draw flaps of skin from either side of the cavity and lace a skewer through to hold mixture in.
Truss wings and legs.
Cook for 1.5 hours, basting (I use organic palm oil shortening) every 20 minutes.
Remove from oven and let rest for a few minutes before serving.
Notes:Several years ago we ate at a restaurant in Seattle - Queen Anne, I think - IIRC a Mediterranean/eclectic/Middle East-ish place (for which I can't find any references online, unfortunately). I ordered the goat-cheese and spinach stuffed game hen. Here's my attempt to recreate it (with a couple of modifications of my own - the pine nuts and cumin seed), with a vital contribution from Bri regarding the processing of the spinach, which she had learned from making palak paneer.

Result: Far better than I'd hoped for on this first draft. We made two birds - they came out a beautiful golden brown with crisp skins. My main concern was leakage of the stuffing during cooking but there was none. Next time I will omit the second salting of the spinach and just add water to rinse excess salt off. The stuffing didn't seem excessively salty but it really didn't need to be that dry and a moister/less salty stuffing might have helped keep the breast more moist - it was a little dry. The meat on the drums and even the wings was tender, so I think it's likely the stuffing drew moisture out of the breast. I might add another pinch of cumin seed. The pine nuts came out al dente and made a nice contrast to the flavor and texture of the cheese. I could have used fresh minced garlic instead of granulated - another attempt to keep the dressing as dry as possible that probably wasn't necessary - but I would not add more garlic. The only reason I put it in this was because I can't resist putting garlic in everything, but I restrained myself and kept it to a token amount. To help with the dry white meat, Bri also suggested basting the bird every 15 minutes instead of 20 and taking 15 minutes off the cooking time.

Presentation: A whole 24 oz game hen looks well on one's plate but it's way too much food for one person, especially as part of a multi-course meal. Since we're planning to have this for Yule - my mother has let it be known that it's Bri's and my turn to host the feast - and we don't have enough room in our oven for a whole bird each for the family, not being able to divide the birds neatly would be a show-stopper for this recipe. I cut the bird in half in the mid-sagittal plane, using a knife to divide the muscle along one side of the keel down to the ribs, and kitchen shears to sever the ribs along keel and spine. It worked out fine, giving us two neat halves to lay on the plate stuffing side down for a nice presentation. The stuffing held together and stayed put throughout the division.

Garnish: I haven't actually tried this since I didn't have the ingredients on hand but I'd guess a low-acid palate cleanser like cantaloupe would be good, and fresh cilantro.

Total prep time for 2 birds, not including waiting (but including fumbling around trying to figure stuff out), was about 45 minutes.
Could easily be at least 10 minutes less.
Serves: 2
Equipment:toothpicks or short skewers to close the bird after stuffing
cotton string to truss the bird

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