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Cornish game hens with chestnut, sausage & mushroom stuffing

4 Cornish game hens, cleaned, rinsed, and patted dry
4 tbsp. Melted butter
salt and pepper
4 cups Chestnut Stuffing
2 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. Minced shallots
1 cup Pinot Noir
2 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)
3 tbsp. Mixed, chopped fresh herbs (try thyme, sage, and rosemary)
salt and pepper, to taste

Stuffing:

1 lb. fresh chestnuts
3 cups broth or salted water, for simmering chestnuts
2 tbsp. butter
1 small onion
½ lb. mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tbsp. Fresh chopped herbs (try sage, thyme, parsley)
¼ lb. pork sausage, cooked and crumbled into small pieces
2 cups dry breadcrumbs

Prepare the chestnuts: Bring a large pot of water to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. While waiting for the water to boil, score the chestnuts on their flat sides. Place half the chestnuts in the water and let them soften for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove them from the water and let them cool just until they can be handled. Peel the shells off the chestnuts, then add the remaining chestnuts to the hot water. Remove the skin from the chestnuts using a paring knife, then repeat for remaining chestnuts. When all chestnuts have been skinned and peeled, break them up into large half-inch chunks using your hands. Now bring the broth (or salted water) to a boil. Add the chestnut pieces and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook chestnuts until they are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Prepare the stuffing: Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Cook the onions until they turn translucent and are turning golden. Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until all the mushroom juices have evaporated. In a large mixing bowl toss together the chestnuts, the mushroom mixture, the herbs, the cooked sausage, and the breadcrumbs. Season together with additional salt and pepper if desired.

Prepare the birds: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. If birds are cold allow them to warm up slightly before stuffing them. Cold birds will roast unevenly. Fill the body cavity of each bird with lightly packed stuffing. (Extra stuffing can be tossed with a little broth, baked in a casserole and served with the game hens or later.) Brush each game hen with the melted butter, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover the exposed stuffing of each game hen with a small piece of aluminum foil and place birds on racks in roasting pans (you will probably need two). Now place one roasting pan on upper level of your oven, and one roasting pan on lower level. Roast birds for 20 minutes then switch levels and reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Birds will take approximately one hour to roast, thigh meat needs to be at 180 degrees F. Remove birds from oven when they reach the correct temperature, cover lightly with foil and make your sauce while they rest.

Make sauce: Melt remaining two tablespoons butter in a large sauté pan over high heat. Quickly sauté shallots until they turn golden, then add the wine. When wine has reduced by half, add the stock and reduce by half again. Add the herbs and salt and pepper to taste. Place a game hen on each of six warmed serving plates, pour a large spoonful of sauce over each and serve immediately. Pass remaining sauce in a sauceboat. Makes 6 servings.

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