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Rob Feenie's roast game hen - with compliments to his sister.
Rob Feenie's roast game hen - with compliments to his sister.

In the Kitchen with Rob Feenie

Chef's recipe: Roast game hen with choucroute Add to ...

When it comes to food, this is everyone's favourite time of the year. All rules go out the door. We want to celebrate, and do so by eating and drinking what we want.

And much of that falls into the category of comfort food. For me, those words conjure up memories of my sister. Growing up, she was an amazing cook. When my mom didn't have time to prepare meals, she would step in. Her spaghetti sauce was to die for - and her mac and cheese was a home run.

But the one thing she did that has stuck with me - and became one of my signatures - was roast chicken. It was simply roasted for an hour or so, served with mashed potatoes, broccoli or cauliflower and a light salad. It was so simple but so good.

I've tweaked the recipe for this menu: Instead of roast chicken, two roasted game hens with olive-oil fork-mashed potatoes, choucroute and a simple jus flavoured with shallots, chives and sherry vinegar. The addition of the shallots and the vinegar takes the dish in another direction, and makes it a meal you can really sink your teeth into. Whenever you are stuck on what to cook for your guests, this is one recipe that won't fail to impress.

Remember when cooking that the whole idea is to keep it simple: Buy amazing ingredients and let them speak for themselves.

Happy holidays to all.

Roast game hen with choucroute and olive-oil forked potatoes

Ingredients

2 small game hens

1 lemon, quartered

sprigs of thyme

4 cloves of garlic

1/3 cup of unsalted butter

Spice sachet

1 star anise

2 whole cloves

1/2 teaspoon of mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds

1/4 teaspoon white peppercorns

2 juniper berries

1 bay leaf

1/2 inch cinnamon stick

Choucroute

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon duck fat

1/2 cup julienned double-smoked bacon

2 cups thinly sliced onions

2 cups reisling

3 cups of drained sauerkraut

Potatoes

4 or 5 medium Yukon gold potatoes

1/4 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper

Jus

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

1 tablespoon finely diced shallots

1 tablespoon chopped chives

1/2 cup veal or beef stock

Method

Preheat oven to 375F. Rinse the cavities of the hens; and stuff each with the half of the garlic, lemons and thyme. You can truss the birds or simply place them close together in a roasting pan. Rub them with the butter and place in the oven.

At the same time, place the potatoes on the oven rack. Do not open the oven door for an hour or so; at that point place a meat thermometer between the breast and the leg meat of the hens. If it reads 160 F the birds are done (you can also tell by turning the bird upright; if the juice runs clear it is done). Once the birds are cooked, remove from the oven and allow to rest.

Check potatoes with a fork

to make sure they are soft, then remove and peel. Place flesh in a large bowl, add

the olive oil and mash loosely with a fork. Season and keep warm.

While the potatoes and hens are cooking, you can make the choucroute. Place the sachet ingredients in cheesecloth and tie with kitchen string. Melt the butter and fat in a saucepan over medium heat; add bacon. Add onion and allow it to sweat for two to three minutes. Then add sauerkraut, reisling and the spice sachet, cover with a lid and simmer for at least an hour over low heat. When done, remove the sachet, season and keep warm.

For the jus, bring your beef or veal stock to a simmer, add the shallots, vinegar and chives and continue to simmer for a few minutes, season and keep warm.

Divide hens into four halves and place on warmed plates. Divide the potatoes and choucroute among the four and spoon the jus overtop. Serve.

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