I absolutely love everything about this time of year…the festivities, the family time, the food. I’ve noticed that when it comes to holiday feasts, it doesn’t matter whether you’re making a banquet for a group of twenty friends or an intimate meal to enjoy with your love; the truly magical thing is getting to share a beautiful meal with someone special. A dear friend of mine recently asked me to put together a Christmas dinner for two; I happily agreed (developing recipes and menus is pretty much my all-time favorite thing to do!) and Cornish hen immediately came to mind. Specifically, I thought of Cornish hen with a maple glaze, since I think it’s a fantastic combination.
When I was coming up with the rest of the menu, I had a few different side dishes in mind to serve with the hen, and I wasn’t sure which to make. I decided to go to the grocery store for a little inspiration (when all else fails, right, lol?). I headed straight to the produce department, and just like I knew it would, inspiration struck. I decided on two sides: braised red cabbage with cherries, and some form of spiced yams.
After that I wanted to wander peruse the store a bit just to see if anything else would catch my eye. I was glad I did because I came across a mulled Scandinavian holiday beverage called Glögg. It’s typically a blend of red wine, sugar, orange peel, and warm spices like cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and cardamom. I found a non-alcoholic version made with fruit juices instead of wine…probably not as traditional, but I was thrilled that Mike and I would be able to drink it with the meal I was testing.
When I got home, out of curiosity I decided to google Scandinavian holiday feasts just to see what Glögg is usually served with. According to Wikipedia, a traditional Christmas Eve meal in Denmark consists of roast pork, goose, or duck (Cornish hen will do, right?), potatoes (yams are close enough for me!), and red cabbage (how does braised red cabbage with cherries sound?). Talk about meant to be. And this is how my version of a Scandinavian Christmas feast for two came to be. S., I hope you and your hubby enjoy it! Merry Christmas, darling!
(Yield: 2 servings)
¼ c water
2 TB pure maple syrup
2 TB balsamic vinegar
½ TB tamari sauce
¼ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
½-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 2 pieces
1 spring fresh thyme
2 whole cloves (or a pinch of ground cloves)
3 whole peppercorns (or a generous pinch of ground pepper)
1 medium (about 1 lb) yam, washed and cubed
1 ½ TB canola oil
½ teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
Pinch each salt and pepper
Braised Red Cabbage with Cherries:
1 TB canola oil
¼ medium head of cabbage (about ¾ lb to 1 lb), chopped (about 3-4 c chopped)
2 TB water
2 TB apple cider vinegar
1 TB pure maple syrup
3 TB dried cherries
Salt and pepper
Vanilla-Maple Glaze (recipe above)
2 small (under 1 ½ lb) or 1 large (1 ¾ lb or more) Cornish hens
1 TB apple cider vinegar
1 TB sugar
1 TB salt
2 TB canola oil
Salt and pepper
Vanilla-Maple Glaze: Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan; bring up to a boil, then turn heat down and simmer gently until thickened and reduced by about half, stirring occasionally. Strain glaze through a fine mesh sieve (discarding solids) and set aside for now.
Cornish Hens: The night before you want to cook the Cornish Hens, soak them in a brine. In a large bowl, combine 1 TB apple cider vinegar, 1 TB sugar, 1 TB salt, and 1 c water and stir to dissolve sugar and salt. Add the hens, then add enough cold water to cover them. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight. Preheat oven to 400F; rinse the hens and pat them dry. Oil a small roasting pan with 1 TB canola oil, then rub the remaining 1 TB canola oil onto the hens; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast about 30-45 minutes (depending on the size of your hen), brushing the glaze on the hens after 15 minutes. The hens are done when the juices run clear when the meat is pricked in the thigh. (If you have an instant-read thermometer, it should read 165-170F when pricked in the thigh; the temperature will rise another 5-10 degrees while resting.) When they’re fully cooked, take the hens out of the oven and let them rest 10-15 minutes before serving.
Spiced Yams: Preheat oven to 400F. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients. Transfer to a baking sheet, spread in a single layer, and roast 30-40 minutes, until tender (giving the potatoes a toss with a metal spatula once halfway through cooking).
Braised Red Cabbage with Cherries: While the yams and hens roast, make the cabbage. In a medium pot with a lid, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the cabbage, water, vinegar, maple syrup, cherries, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ⅛ teaspoon pepper; cook over medium-high heat until the cabbage starts to soften (about 5 minutes), then turn the heat down to low, cover the pot, and cook until tender (about 30 minutes), stirring every 5-10 minutes.