serves: 4 servings
I like basting roasts with a mixture of pan juices, balsamic vinegar and honey. It adds flavor and a wonderful mahogany color to all kinds of roasts, from poultry to pork to veal. I also like to serve roasted vegetables as a contorno (side dish) with roasted meats. It makes sense; the oven is going so you might as well make use of it. Sometimes I add additional large-cut carrots and celery to the roasting pan with the meat and serve them alongside the carved roast. Or I put together a separate pan of other root vegetables-leeks, onions, parsnips, turnips or even mushrooms, season them with salt, olive oil, some of herbs I used to season the roast and roast them on a separate shelf from the meat. While they roast, I add enough chicken stock to moisten them and stir them once in a while until they are caramelized and tender.
2 Cornish hens, (about 1 1/4 pounds each)
freshly ground black pepper
5 sprigs fresh rosemary leaves
10 sage leaves
2 bay leaves
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 bunches scallions, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lenghts (about 2 cups)
1 cup carrots, peeled, trimmed, and thinly sliced
½ cup celery , thinly sliced
6 slices dried porcini mushrooms
2 cups chicken stock, or canned reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Remove all visible fat and the neck and giblets from the Cornish hens. Rinse the hens under cold water and pat them dry inside and out with paper towels. Season the birds generously with salt and pepper inside out. Place one rosemary sprig, 2 sage leaves and 1 bay leaf in the body cavity of each bird.
Heat the oil in a heavy, flame-proof roasting pan or very large oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Add the scallion, celery; carrots, porcini and the remaining rosemary and sage leaves and cook, stirring until the scallions are wilted, about 4 minutes. Smooth the vegetables into an even layer and nestle the prepared birds breast side up over them. Roast, basting frequently with enough of the chicken stock to keep the vegetables well moistened, until the vegetables and hens are golden brown-about 45 minutes.
Carefully tilt the pan and spoon off enough of the roasting juices to measure one cup, not including fat. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and honey until the honey is dissolved. Return the birds to oven and roast, basting occasionally with the honey mixture, until the birds are a rich mahogany color and the leg joint moves easily when you wiggle it, about 15 minutes.
Remove the birds from the oven, transfer them to a platter or plates, and cover with a tent of aluminum foil to keep them warm. Strain the and pan juices through a sieve into a small saucepan, pressing as much of the vegetables through the sieve as possible. Skim the fat from the surface of the sauce and bring the sauce to a simmer while carving the birds. With a pair of kitchen shears, cut along both sides of the backbones to remove them. Cut the birds in half through the center breast bone. Cut each half into leg and breast portions. Arrange the pieces on a platter or plates and spoon some of the roasting juices over them. Pass the remaining sauce separately.