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Cornish Hens with Italian Sausage and Rice Stuffing
A Cornish hen, also sometimes called a Cornish game hen, is simply a regular chicken that is very young (usually 5 or 6 weeks of age) and is therefore smaller in size (weighing not more than 2 pounds.) Despite the name, it is not a game bird. Though the bird is called a "hen," it can be either male or female.
Cornish hens make an elegant presentation for an intimate dinner for two or a small dinner party. They are also nice for Thanksgiving dinner if you are not a big fan of turkey. Each person gets a beautifully glazed bird with both white and dark meat. The dark meat is very tender and juicy because the chicken is so young.
4 Cornish hens (about 1-1/2 pounds each) 1 tablespoon olive oil 6 ounces Italian sausage, casings removed 1/2 cup diced onion 1/4 cup diced carrot 1/4 cup diced celery 2 teaspoons minced garlic 1 teaspoon grated orange zest 1 cup long-grain white rice 1/3 cup golden raisins Salt and pepper 2 cups chicken broth
Glaze: 1 cup apricot preserves 1/2 cup orange juice
To make the stuffing: Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook until lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the onions, carrots, and celery; cook until the onions are translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and orange zest; cook for 30 seconds. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the raisins, salt and pepper, and chicken broth; bring to a boil. Cover the saucepan and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until the rice is tender and liquid is absorbed. Spread the rice out on a baking sheet to cool.
In a small saucepan, whisk together the apricot preserves and orange juice. Put the saucepan over medium-high heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Allow the glaze to reduce by about half, about 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Season the hens with salt and pepper, inside and out. Stuff each hen cavity with about 3/4 cup of the cooled rice. Place the hens in a roasting pan. Brush some of the glaze over the hens and place them in the oven. Roast the hens for 30 minutes and spread another layer of glaze on the hens. Continue to roast for another 30 minutes. They are done when an instant-read thermometer inserted in a thigh registers 160 degrees F. Allow to rest for 10 minutes and serve.
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