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Recipe: Mustard-Glazed Cornish Hen with Hearts of Romaine

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Cornish hen and romaine
Dave Scantland
I think of this dish as a warm, "deconstructed" Caesar salad with chicken. Adapted from a New York Times recipe which was adapted from the Modern restaurant in New York, it's an easier version of a delicious, elegant restaurant entree. While the prep work is a little time-consuming, the actual cooking process goes pretty quickly.

Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • 1 Cornish game hen
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 romaine lettuce heart
  • 2 teaspoons anchovy, minced (or anchovy paste)
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 small lemon
  • 1/2 ounce shaved Parmigiano or other grana cheese
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Preparation:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Spatchcock (or butterfly) the Cornish hen: take the hen out of the package and remove giblets from the cavity if they're there. Place the bird on your cutting board with the back up, breast down. If you're not sure what's what, find the weird little fleshy extension (called, alternately, the pope's nose or the chicken butt). That side should be closest to you as you start. At the other end will be what's left of the neck. With a sturdy pair of scissors, start at one side of that fleshy piece and cut up along the side of the backbone until you've reached the other side. Then do the same with the other side of the backbone. Flip the bird over and press your hand down over the breast, pushing hard enough to crack the breastbone and flatten the bird. (If you're not familiar with spatchcocking, this step-by-step photo tutorial may be helpful.)

3. Place the bird on a rack over a sheet pan. Salt both sides and let it sit for 20 minutes or so.

4. While the bird rests, split the heart of romaine in half lengthwise. You can trim the bottom of the root if you like, but leave it mostly intact so the leaves don't fall apart.

5. With a small sharp knife, cut off the ends of the lemon and slice off the peel and pith. Working over a bowl to save the juice, cut into segments by slicing on either side of each piece of membrane to release the slices. (Click here for a great tutorial on this method.) Cut each segment in half.

6. Coat the bottom of a large skillet with olive oil and heat over medium high heat until oil shimmers and flows like water. Add the game hen skin side down and sear until well browned, 3-4 minutes. Flip and sear the other side for about 3 minutes.

7. Transfer the hen to a rack placed over a sheet pan, skin side up. Mix the mustard with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and brush over the skin. Place in the oven and roast until skin is crisp and meat is cooked, about 15 to 20 minutes.

8. While the hen cooks, place the skillet back over medium high heat. There should be a thick coating of oil and chicken fat in the pan. When the oil is hot, add romaine heart halves cut side down and press with a spatula until well browned. Turn hearts over and sear the second side. Remove the romaine heart pieces and place on a plate or rack.

9. If there's more than a thin coating of oil left in the pan, drain any excess off. Add the anchovies and garlic to the pan. Add chicken stock and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan, until stock is reduced by about half. Add lemon segments and about a teaspoon of the lemon juice and allow sauce to thicken. Season to taste with more lemon juice if necessary. (If the sauce is too tart, swirl in a teaspoon or so of the olive oil.) Return the romaine to the skillet and turn to warm up and coat with the sauce.

10. When the hen is done, remove it from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes or so. Cut through the breastbone to divide the hen into two halves.

11. To serve, place the romaine halves on two plates. Drizzle the remaining sauce over the lettuce. Top with the game hen halves and sprinkle with the shaved Parmigiano and black pepper.

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