Apple cornbread stuffed game hens

Recipe by Bruce Aidells
Serves 4

Apples, cornbread and fresh corn. These are the ingredients that say it all for truly grand Fall food and, of course, everything tastes better with bacon.

Cornbread Stuffing

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1 1/2 cup peeled and diced Granny Smith or Golden Delicious Apples
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
  • 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese
  • 4 cups cornbread stuffing mix or homemade dried and cubed cornbread
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup, or more apple cider or apple juice

Game Birds

  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped sage
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 Cornish Game Hems (about 1 1/4-1 1/2 pounds each)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6-8 strips bacon, cut in half cross wise

Corn Maquechoux

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 2-3 cups freshly shucked sweet corn kernels
  • 3/4 cup cream
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco Sauce or more to taste
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped green onions
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cornbread Stuffing
Heat butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and celery and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add apples and cook 3 minutes more or until they begin to soften but are still firm. Stir in salt and pepper and sage, transfer to a large mixing bowl. Stir on cheese, cornbread and egg. Moisten with cider until mixture is moist but not wet. It should be moist enough to mound when pressed together on a spoon. Add more cider if needed. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Game Birds
Preheat oven to 400º. Stuff each bird with the stuffing and skewer the cavity closed with a toothpick. Combine the sage, salt and pepper and sprinkle all over each bird. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat and brown the birds on all sides, about 7-10 minutes total. Remove from the pan and when the birds are cool enough to handle, drape strips of bacon over each breast to cover. Anchor bacon with toothpicks pressed into the sides of each bird and arrange them on a roasting pan, breast side up. Roast for about 30-40 minutes or until the thickest part of the thigh registers 160-165º on an instant-read thermometer. Remove and let rest 5-10 minutes before serving. Remove the bacon and aside.

Corn Maquechoux
While the hens are roasting, make the maquechoux. Heat butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook 5 minutes or until soft. Add bell pepper and corn and cook 2-3 minutes more. Add cream, thyme and Tabasco and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in green onion, parsley, and basil. Season to taste with salt, pepper and Tabasco. To serve, spread about 1/2 cup corn maquechoux on the bottom of each plate. Place 2 bacon strips on top, then top with the birds.

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