Roasted Cornish Hens with Apple, Date & Almond Stuffing and Honey Pomegranate Glaze

Cornish Hens

So on Rosh HaShanah we eat many symbolic foods, in order to have a healthy, happy and prosperous new year. This entrée includes 4 of these foods! The apple symbolizes Gan Eden(The Garden of Eden), which according to the Sages had the scent of an apple orchard. The word date in Hebrew is תמרים and related to the word תם – to end. So on Rosh HaShanah we eat dates so that G-d will bring an end to our enemies.

Honey, as you know is sweet, and what could be a better symbol for a sweet new year? Lastly, the pomegranate is full of seeds (some say 613 seeds to be exact, just like the number of laws in the Torah). So we eat pomegranates so that we will be as full of mitzvot (good deeds) and the pomegranate is seeds. This recipe is geared for 8 guests, and will give some extra stuffing and sauce to serve along with your final dish. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

¼ cup unsalted margarine (½ a stick)
8-12 (about 4 pounds) Fuji apples, chopped
20 Medjool dates, pits removed, chopped*
2 lemons, zest and juice**
2 oranges, zest and juice**
1 cup unsalted roasted almonds, chopped
Salt and pepper (to taste)
2 onions, roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
4 stalks celery, roughly chopped
8 Cornish hens (1 ¼ pounds each)
¾ cup dry white wine
⅓ cup chopped shallots (about 1 ½ large shallots or 3 small ones)
1 ½ cups chicken broth
1 ½ cups pomegranate juice
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons margarine

* Click here to learn how to inspect dates.
** Click here for my tips on zesting lemons and oranges.
♦ Click here to learn how to truss a Cornish hen.

Directions:

Melt margarine in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. When sizzling, add apples and sauté, stirring occasionally, until brown but still crisp, about 15-20 minutes. Add dates, zests, and juices; cook for 1 minute more. Remove from heat, cool, and stir in almonds and salt.

Place the chopped onions, carrots and celery in the bottom of a large roasting pan (or divide into two smaller pans) and mix the vegetables so that they are combined.

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Remove and discard the giblets and necks from the hens. Rinse the hens under cold water and then pat dry. Trim off any excess fat. Season each cavity with salt and pepper, and then loosely stuff with apple mixture. Truss the hens♦. Place the hens, breast-side up, on top of the chopped vegetables.

Boil the wine and shallots in a heavy small saucepan until most of the wine has evaporated, about 4-6 minutes. Add the broth, pomegranate juice and honey. Boil again until the sauce has reduced to about 1 ¾ – 2 cups, about 7-9 minutes. Whisk in the margarine and then remove from the heat.

Brush the hens with the honey-pomegranate sauce. Roast the hens at 475 degrees for 15 minutes, and then reduce the heat to 400 degrees and cook for an additional 35 minutes, or until juices run clear. While the hens are roasting, baste them occasionally with more of the sauce, about every 10 minutes or so. Serve the hens with any remaining stuffing and remaining sauce.

Safety Note: Before serving the remaining sauce or giving a final basting to the fully cooked hens, put the sauce back on the stove and bring it back up to a quick boil. The reason for this is because you have been dipping your basting brush back and forth between the hens while they were cooking, and therefore at various stages of rawness, and then dipping the brush back into the sauce pot. You want to eliminate any chances of salmonella or other food borne pathogens from contaminating your final dish. The re-boiling of the sauce will kill off these pathogens. Safety first!