As I hear about the overwhelming stress of cooking for Thanksgiving, and all the dishes and all the prep and blah, blah, blah, I'm truly thankful to have a quiet dinner at home with just me and the hubby. This has been our little tradition for a few years, since we live away from our families and often find ourselves alone on some holidays. But don't be sad for us! Sometimes it's just nice to bypass the traffic and hectic run-around and relax with all the comforts of this time of year.
I'm going to confess something: I don't like turkey. I'll eat it, but when was the last time you really craved turkey? Besides a fried turkey leg that is...now that makes your mouth water.
Anyway, I've taken to preparing little game hens. They're just so damn cute and easy to work with. I usually marinate them for at least 24 hours ahead of time in a variety of concoctions. This year it was decidedly simple being that my kitchen is, as you know, not fully stocked.
The main components here are olive oil, red wine (a Cab Sav), soy sauce, crushed garlic and fresh sage and thyme. I just eyeballed it all into a bowl, but it's about equal parts of all the liquids, maybe a little more soy sauce. Excuse me if I'm not always that precise, this is cooking after all!
Rinse and pat the hens dry with paper towels. And then, and this is very important....
You must make them dance. This is why I say they are so much fun! Try making a turkey dance. Not fun.
Then lay them together in the glass bowl with marinade and make sure they are all covered and cozy. Put plastic wrap over top and keep in the refrigerator, turning them a couple times before cooking.
Here they are before the big roast ready to go. I've stuffed them with hunks of celery and onion, and trussed them. I realize this is not a proper roasting pan with a metal rack, but it works just fine. Maybe I'll get one for Christmas? :)
And voila! They look beautiful after an hour in a 400 degree oven. They're ready when you prick the leg and juices run clear. I also don't have a meat thermometer right now, so this is a good trick to know.
On to....Cornbread Stuffing
The reason I love Thanksgiving so much. I could eat just this for the rest of my life and not care too much. It wasn't until I moved out of Texas that I realized cornbread stuffing was a certain type and not the only one out there! It's a staple in every southern household and it should be in yours too.
I'm just sayin'
I take a shortcut and make a batch of Trader Joe's cornbread the day before. It's sweet and moist enough. If you have the time and the propensity, go ahead and make it from scratch. I commend you.
When it's cooled, I break it up into pieces and let it sit out overnight in the casserole to dry out, stirring them occasionally.
The next day, before you start, toast the heals of a loaf of bread, then tear it into pieces and mix in with the cornbread. The reason I don't do this earlier is because I've found the moisture from the cornbread will just soak into the toast. The idea is that the toast is stickier and will help everything hold together, since cornbread is crumbly.
Next chop up some fresh Sage and Thyme, and melt a stick of butter in a skillet. Cook the herbs a few minutes before adding in chopped onion and celery to make a yummy base for the stuffing. Cook a few minutes more until everything is soft and looks like this:
Then mix it all in with the bread...
Then add in 2 beaten eggs and enough chicken broth to just moisten it, you don't want it soupy. I believe it's close to a cup, but be the judge.
Mix it all up and flatten the top
Cook at 350 degrees for 45 minutes and you should have something like this.
Life is good.
Full Menu: Roast Game Hens
Green Bean Casserole
Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes