Cornish Game Hens with Pancetta Rosemary Crust
- 3⁄4 pound pancetta, cut into 1⁄2-inch dice
- 4 Cornish game hens, backbone and rib cage removed
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
- 1⁄2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 2 to 4 tablespoons ice water
- 1⁄2 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Directions for Cornish Game Hens with Pancetta Rosemary Crust
1. Put the diced pancetta in the freezer for 30 minutes to partially freeze it. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
2. Tie the legs of each of the hens together with butcher’s twine.
3. Coat a large sauté pan with olive oil and bring it to medium-high heat. Season both sides of the hens with salt and place them in the pan skin side down. Brown them really well on the first side, then flip them over and repeat with the second side— this will take 4 to 5 minutes per side. You will probably have to work in batches, one or two at a time. DO NOT crowd the pan—you want to get the hens really nice and brown. Brown food tastes good!!! Transfer the hens, skin side up, to a rimmed baking sheet and reserve. SAVE THE PAN but ditch the fat—in other words, don’t wash the pan! It has lovely brown crud on the bottom that will be used to make a little pan sauce.
4. In a food processor combine the frozen pancetta, rosemary, garlic, and crushed red pepper. Purée the mixture until it starts to look like a paste, stopping periodically as needed to scrape the pancetta chunks from the sides with a rubber spatula. When the mixture starts to look smooth, keep the machine running and add a couple tablespoons of ice water to the mix. Continue to purée until the mixture looks really smooth. If needed, add a little more ice water, 3 to 4 tablespoons in total.
5. Schmear the pancetta mixture all over the skin side of the hens, and BE SURE to
really stick it on in an even layer. Transfer the pancetta-crusted hens to the oven
and roast for 25 minutes.
6. While the hens cook, return the sauté pan to a burner and pour in the white wine. Bring the pan to medium-high heat and scrape the brown bits off the bottom with a wooden spoon. Let the wine cook until only a couple tablespoons are left, then add the chicken stock and a little sprinkle of salt. Continue cooking until the liquid has
evaporated by half. Add the butter in two pats, swirl it around, and turn off the heat. Taste to make sure it is delicious—it will be fairly acidic, and that’s a GOOD THING! 7. Remove the hens from the oven, cut the butcher’s twine off the legs, transfer to serving plates, and spoon the pan juices over the hens to serve.
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