Moroccan-inspired couscous, chunky with apricots and almonds and flavored with cinnamon and honey, makes a quick and unexpected stuffing for roasted hens. The honey drizzled on the birds during the last ten minutes of cooking gives them a glistening, crisp, brown skin.
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup couscous
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 teaspoons honey
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Fresh-ground black pepper
2 Cornish hens (about 1 1/4 pounds each)
1 tablespoon cooking oil
3 tablespoons water
How to Make It
Heat the oven to 350°. Toast the nuts in the oven until golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove. Raise the heat to 425°.
In a small saucepan, bring the broth, the apricots, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a simmer over moderately high heat. Remove from the heat and stir in the couscous. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Add the almonds, 1/2 tablespoon of the butter, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the honey, the cinnamon, and 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper.
Fill the cavities of the hens with the couscous mixture. Twist the wings of the hens behind their backs and, if you like, tie the legs together. Put the hens, breast-side up, in a small roasting pan. Coat the hens with the oil; sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Dot with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter.
Roast the hens for 25 minutes. Baste them with the pan juices and drizzle with the remaining 1 teaspoon honey. Continue roasting until just done, 10 to 15 minutes longer.
When the hens are done, transfer them to a plate and leave to rest in a warm spot for about 5 minutes. Spoon the fat from the roasting pan and add the water to the juices. Cook over moderate heat, scraping the bottom of the pan to dislodge any brown bits, until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 3 minutes. Add a pinch each of salt and pepper. Cut the hens in half and serve with the stuffing and pan juices.
Wine Recommendation: This exotic dish calls for an equally exotic wine, like a delicious Australian sémillon, a not-too-dry white with hints of tangerine and almonds.
This was a relatively quick dish with good flavor and nice presentation. Certainly worthy of a special event, but easy enough to make on a week night. I used chopped pecans instead of almonds since that's what I had on hand. Served this with a salad and some bread. It was a hit with my husband and kids and I'll definitely make it again!
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