Blue Moon & Orange Glazed Cornish Hens

Cornish Hens glazed with Orange Marmalade and Blue Moon

Cornish Hens glazed with Orange Marmalade and Blue Moon

Blue Moon & Orange Glazed Cornish Hens

Note: this recipe requires at least 8 hours to marinate, so plan ahead!
I love drinking a Blue Moon Belgian White beer with an orange slice. And, apparently, so do Cornish hens. Today we’re going to marinate these, as my dad would say, “tasty little buggers” in an orange marmalade and Blue Moon sauce, then glaze the hens while they sear and roast. The marinade adds a savory-sweet flavor to the hens and it turns into magical gravy in your pan, so make sure to have mashed potatoes, bread, napkins, and another Blue Moon on hand. Side note to my mother: yes, I did lick my fingers after I ate this and no I didn’t look like a cat when I did it. Because cats can’t drink beer.

So onto Cornish hens. What are Cornish hens? I’m so glad you asked. It’s a hybrid chicken that’s smaller than your regular meat aisle chicken coming in at about 2lbs each. They are easy to break down and serve about two people each. You can purchase them at your local Safeway in the freezer section or at your local butcher. I took on this self-imposed experiment of marinating and glazing Cornish hens partially because I was inspired by the flavors of an orange slice in my Blue Moon and partially because I wanted to compare two Cornish hens: frozen, non organic “bad guys” vs. free range, cold packed “good guys.” Spoiler alert, the “bad guys” win this time. I’ll walk you through my organic to non-organic compare while I do my little step-by-step recipe slash photo bomb. Ready? Ok lets go…

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Photo bomb commences! Get together just a few simple ingredients…this recipe is relatively simple

Cornish Hen Ingredients
4 Cornish hens, whole
S&P
1 tbs butter (for searing)
1 tbs olive oil (for searing)
1 sprig flat parsley (for finishing)
(note, ingredients for the marinade are below)

First, let’s prep the Cornish hens and I’ll talk about why the “bad guys” win. It’s simply economics. The organic hens were about 3x the price of the previously frozen and, honestly, once I was done marinating, glazing and roasting, I couldn’t tell the difference. I buy cornish hens because it’s a very affordable way to feed a larger group of people, so the price overrides the benefits of organic here. Just note that the non-organic chickens usually come frozen so there is some thawing time. I did feel great about buying organic, no preservatives, air chilled, no antibiotics or hormones (I have enough of these myself, thank you) and buying local. But if the aforementioned points don’t convince you, then let me show you a photo and a complicated graph of why the non-organic, frozen, Safeway hens won. Simply put, more money left over for beer.

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I am so good at my finance job.

I am so good at my finance job.

Now that we’re done with the finance portion of this lesson, let’s move on to prepping the hen. Wash and pat dry the hens & place on a cutting board breast down (photo 1 below is breast up. Do that but pretend it’s opposite day). Using poultry shears, cut out the backbone of the chicken (see photos 2 & 3, below). Flip over chicken and, using a large knife, gently slice down the breast to the breast bone. I use a knife vs. the shears for this because it preserves the skin. Poultry shears will make a less pretty cut and tear at the breast. Once the breasts are sliced down to the bone, use your muscles and cut all the way through (see photo 4, below). Salt and pepper the breasts and set aside for cooking.

Here are step-by-step photos:
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Now let’s make some tasty marinade…

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Shallots, Blue Moon, S&P, lemon, orange marmalade and Dijon mustard are the simple ingredients in our marinade. Not pictured: garlic. He missed photo day due to a vampire-related incident

Orange & Blue Moon Marinade
1 tbs       olive oil
1/2 c      shallot, minced
1 tsp       garlic
10 oz      beer (get beer, take two sips, use rest)
1 1/2 c    orange marmalade
1 tbs       dijon mustard
1 tbs       white wine vinegar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
S&P to taste

In a large non-stick pan over medium high heat, warm olive oil. Add shallots and saute until slightly browned. Add garlic and stir in pan for 1 minute. Add beer, which should bubble up and boil like the below photos. Turn down heat immediately and let reduce until the beer is about 3/4 cup.
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IMG_6546Whisk in remaining ingredients, add S&P to taste, and bring them to boil over a medium heat. Reduce to simmer until thickened. Let cool in the fridge for about 10 minutes (so the hot marinade doesn’t pre cook the hens). Once cooled, split the hens and marinade between two large freezer bags and refrigerate for 8-12 hours.

Ready for marinating time!

Ready for marinating time!

Searing, Roasting, Glazing & Finishing the Hens
Set oven to 350 degrees. In an oven-safe, large stainless steel or cast iron pan (I had to use two for all the hens), heat olive oil and butter over medium high heat. Add about 1/2 cup of the marinate to the pan. Sear both sides of hens until dark brown (the sugar from the marmalade will “burn” onto the chicken). If you’re doing all 4 hens, this will need to be done in batches. Once seared, add all remaining marinade to the pan. Note: you can only add back this marinade because you are going to FULLY cook this in the oven. Do not preserve marinade from the freezer bag as this has, duh, raw chicken in it! Place entire pan into oven and baste every 10 minutes (this is the glazing part!). Total roasting time in the oven is approximately 25-30 minutes or until breast of chicken is no longer pink.

The sugars from the marmalade will "burn" on the chicken and turn it a beautiful deep golden brown

The sugars from the marmalade will “burn” on the chicken and turn it a beautiful deep golden brown

Seared chicken, ready for the oven

Seared chicken, ready for the oven

Once roasted, the marinade should turn a thick and be a beautiful carmel brown color. Let hens rest for 5 minutes (they’ve been through a lot!) and finish with chopped parsley, a bit of gravy, and, of course, another Blue Moon. Enjoy!

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Squash Blossoms and Happy Boy Farms

Zucchini Salad and Fried Squash Blossoms

Zucchini Salad and Fried Squash Blossoms

Squash Blossoms and Happy Boy Farms

I look forward to Sundays. And not in the sleep in, relax, have a cup of coffee and do nothing kind of Sunday. I can’t even sleep in on Sunday. Why? Because I. Am. So. Excited. Sunday is Farmer’s market day at Fort Mason in San Francisco. My Sunday routine is flawlessly the same every week. Wake up. Eat eggs. Consider going for run. Don’t go for run. Walk to market. Walk around entire market and sample. Walk around entire market again to check prices, re-think about recipes and look for inspiration. Sample. Walk around one final, third time to actually buy items. And sample. Harass my favorite farmer for forgetting the tatsoi on his truck.  Walk home, curse the three flights I have to walk up because I just HAD to live on the top floor. FInally, lay out all my goods to use that as inspiration for my next post, which brings me to squash blossoms and Happy Boy Farms. 

Happy Boy Farms is a family run, organic farm in Watsonville, California (wherever that is). The darling girls who work each week at the market bring us city folk fresh, lovely, seasonal produce that is unique and ever changing from week to week. This week’s inspiration came from squash blossoms and edible flowers that they sold this week along with zucchini, radishes, and golden beets. So thank you, Happy Boy Farms, for having the same flawless Sunday routine of bringing me fantastic produce from Lordknowswhere, California so that I might lug it up to my 3rd floor apartment and fry up some squash blossoms. 

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Produce from Happy Boy Farms (and some mushrooms I bought at Safeway, shhhh)

Squash blossoms and edible flowers from Happy Boy Farmers

Squash blossoms and edible flowers from Happy Boy Farmers

Fried Squash Blossoms and Shaved Zucchini Salad Recipe

For this recipe, you’ll need a mandolin slicer. And if you don’t have a mandolin slicer, you’ll need a vegetable peeler. You’ll also need a nice 1/2 bottle of inexpensive oil (vegetable or canola), a deep pan for frying, and all your fingers so you can afford to lose one or two between the slicing and the frying. 

For the Zucchini Salad
2 small zucchini
Small bunch radishes
2 small beets
5 stalks asparagus
Mixed Green Salad
Salt & Pepper
Goat Cheese (optional)
1/4c Hazelnuts (optional), sliced

Toast hazelnuts in 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes or until fragrant. WATCH CAREFULLY as these suckers will burn. Once you smell them, take them out immediately. Set aside. Slice zucchini, radishes, beets, and asparagus (leave tops whole for the salad) and place in a ice bath. The ice bath keeps veggies fresh and makes the zucchini curl up and look purdy.

Placing the zucchini in an ice bath will cause the veggie to curl up and keep fresh

Placing the zucchini in an ice bath will cause the veggie to curl up and keep fresh

Add radishes and beets to keep fresh and give the zucchini some friends

Add radishes and beets to keep fresh and give the zucchini some friends

Set everything aside for final preparation, below.

For the salad Dressing
1/4c olive oil
1 tbs champagne vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt & Pepper to taste

Whisk everything together rapidly. If you’re obsessive about emulsifying (process of separating the oils with all the vinegars), do this in a mini blender.

For the Squash Blossoms
4 large squash blossom flowers
1 4oz container of goat cheese, room temperature or slightly softened in microwave
Basil
Parsley
Chives
Salt & Pepper to taste
1/2 cup seltzer water
2 tbs flour
2-3 cups vegetable or canola oil

Before I start, note that the basil/parsley/chives mix is not because of some magical genius mix of herbs. It’s just what I have growing out on my fire escape. Really, you can use most fresh herbs – tarragon, sage, thyme and oregano would all be fantastic. There are also plenty of recipes online for super fancy fried squash blossoms with roasted tomatoes, different cheeses, small bits of gold, etc, but I like my squash blossoms nice and simple. On to the recipe…

Mince herbs and mix in with goat cheese. Add S&P to taste. Stuff squash blossoms with goat cheese mixture, but do not over-stuff. These squash blossoms should look like they ate too many chips before their enchilada at the Mexican food restaurant. NOT like they were trying to get their money’s worth with fried chicken, potato rolls, mashed potatoes & gravy and the ice cream sundae bar at Old Country Buffet.

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Simple fried squash blossom ingredients

Stuffed, not over-stuffed blossoms

Stuffed, not over-stuffed blossoms

In a medium bowl, mix seltzer water with flour and a pinch of S&P.

Heat oil in a fryer or deep saucepan over high medium high heat (meaning just below medium high, but not quite high). There should be about an inch of oil in the pan. Note, in the photos below I have TOO MUCH OIL in the pan. This caused splatter and a small, 1/2 second fire on my stove so don’t do that. Less oil, no fire. Ok?

The oil is hot enough when you drop in a tiny bit of the flour/seltzer mix and it sizzles.

Using thongs (for finger protection), dip each stuffed squash blossom in the setlzer-flour mixture, shake off excess, and GENTLY drop into oil. Let sizzle, turning gently using thongs, until browned. Set aside on a separate plate. Do each blossom separately so that the oil can re-heat after each one.

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Assemble the salad

Dress the mixed greens with 1/2 the salad dressing.  Drain remaining veggies, pat dry, and dress with remaining salad dressing. Top with goat cheese, hazelnuts, and squash blossoms. Enjoy immediately with a glass of wine and a silent cheers to all the farmers that bring us fantastic veggies to your home (wherever that may be).

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Special thanks to my lovely friend, Christina, who was patient and helpful enough to help me with all the photos. Including the ones where I asked her to wait 10 minutes after the food was cooked while I photographed on my (clean) floor.

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