If you are in search of a sweet, traditional but a little outside of the box Jewish holiday main dish, then look no further than these elegant and simple honey and cherry Cornish game hens.
I have been making this dish to Rosh Hashana rave reviews for years now. Served with savory Israeli couscous, a salad with a peppery lettuce-like arugula (a counterpoint to all this Rosh Hashana sweetness) and some steamed broccoli drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil, your new year will start on a high note.
At the heart of this dish are plump, northwest sweet cherries that fortunately come in a can and are easy to find in most supermarkets. The hens are split in half lengthwise, one half bird for each guest.
Rosh Hashana Honey and Cherry Cornish Game Hens (serves 4)
2 -Cornish game hens (about one and half pounds each or 22 ounces)- cut in half lengthwise.
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon of sweet hot mustard (optional)
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger or 1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon canola or vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 -15 ounce can pitted, dark sweet cherries. Strain cherries and save juice.
You will need:
a 9x13x3 baking dish or roasting pan to fit the hen halves.
blender or food processor
1.Preheat the oven to 375F and place the rack in the center. Pat the hens dry then place them in the baking dish skin-side up.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, rice wine vinegar, sweet mustard, ginger and oil and drizzle over the hens. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.
3. Using a strainer over a measuring cup, gently separate the cherries from the juice. Place half of the whole cherries into a blender or food processor and puree (makes about 1/2 cup.) Combine this puree with half of the strained cherry juice and then pour this mixture around the hens but not on top. Set aside the remaining whole cherries and other half of the strained juice, which will be added during last half hour of baking.
4. Place dish in center rack of oven. Baste with the cherried pan juices every 15 minutes. At 30 minutes, add the remaining whole cherries and juice to the pan. Continue to roast the hens for about one hour to one hour and 10 minutes, an internal temperature of 180F, or when the juices run clear when pricked.
To serve, plate the hens and spoon the luscious pan juices over the hens. Serve with a rice or couscous to lap up the sauce or a slice of challah works too!
Savory Israeli Cous Cous (serves 4 - 6)
2 cups Israeli or couscous (also known as pearl couscous or maftoul)
2 cups sliced cremini or baby bella mushrooms
1 onion chopped (about)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1. Heat about 8 cups of water in a pot and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, heat a large, dry skillet over medium heat and then add the couscous to toast it. Move it around often with a spatula or shake the pan until it is a golden brown (about 5 minutes.) Careful not to burn it.
2. Once the water has boiled, reduce the heat to a simmer and slowly add the toasted couscous. It could boil over so definitely add it cautiously. Simmer the couscous for 4 minutes or until softened (al dente.)
3. Strain it through a sieve and toss with a tablespoon of the olive to keep it from sticking together and set it aside or refrigerate it until you are ready to finish the dish.
4. Heat the large skillet again and then add 2 tablespoons of olive oil followed by the chopped onions. Saute the onions for 3 minutes then add the chopped garlic followed by the sliced mushrooms. Continue for a few more minutes until the mushroom have released their liquid and are turning golden brown. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Add this mixture to the couscous and add salt and pepper to taste. This dish can be made ahead and reheated in a microwave or skillet.
Susan Silverberg spends her days at the Los Angeles Times food section test kitchen, tirelessly testing recipes for readers. She is currently completing her culinary arts degree at Los Angeles Trade Tech, serves as an editorial consultant on multiple cookbooks, and has appeared on national television as a home arts expert, bringing delicious and relatable ideas to the home cook. You can find more of her ideas and recipes at her website, The Home Artist.