Chris and I had Tuesday off - one of the great joys of teaching being the regular and frequent holidays. We had no "outside" plans other than my quick hair appointment, and spent most of the day catching up on our DVR'd "must-see-TV." In our foresight, however, we planned a nice dinner, not necessarily labor intensive, but good for a cold November day when there's nowhere to go. We decided to roast Cornish game hens with a mix of winter vegetables.
First, what do we consider winter vegetables? I let Chris choose, and he did the shopping, some at his favorite Hartford produce shop, Apple Tree, and the rest at the grocery store close to us, Highland Park Market. Chris would have done all of it at Apple Tree, but Chris said they seemed pretty empty, and he's fearful that they are succumbing to the languishing economy and closing shop. Time will tell. In the meantime, he came home with butternut squash, fennel, pearl onions, carrots and celery.
While Chris chopped and prepped the vegetables, I dried and seasoned the hens with herbs de Provence (the blend we like has lavender, rosemary, thyme, bay leaf, garlic and lemon peel) and a little bit of salt and black pepper. I stuffed the cavity of each bird with two lemon halves and two sprigs of rosemary. I then browned them on both sides in a large frying pan. I poured some white wine (I believe it was a Pinot Grigio) about 1/4 inch high in a baking dish and sprinkled it with a couple of pinches of herbs de Provence. When the hens were browned, I put them aside, deglazed the plan with some of the same wine and threw in the vegetables to brown and soften. As they cooked, I put in 2 tablespoons of water and placed a lid on the pan so they would steam and cook through a bit.
The oven was preheated to 400 degrees. We layered the vegetables in the baking dish and tossed them gently with the wine. We then placed the hens on top of the vegetables and baked them uncovered on the middle rack of the oven for 45 minutes. The fragrance of herbs filled our house and our noses as dinner did its thing. The meat was juicy and infused with flavor from the wine and the herbs. The vegetables turned out to be a delicious mixture, with the fennel giving off its slight anise taste. It was an easy but elegant dinner, one that we're thinking of serving up at our next dinner party.