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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Spanish Cornish Hen & Rice

by Mango

Spanish Cornish Hen with Jasmine Rice

New year, new recipe! I had never made this dish before and from what I've seen, it typically involves chicken. We didn't have chicken, but we did have a small Cornish hen in the freezer that we were supposed to cook during Christmas but didn't, so I figured I'd use it here. It's a perfect little size, and this recipe makes enough for two people, with enough left over for one person the next day (so flip a coin, or fight to the death). 

There are many variations of this recipe, but these are the ingredients that I used:

*1 cornish hen, cut into portions (not pictured above)
*Half a large onion, chopped
*Half a large green pepper, chopped
*Poblano pepper, fire-roasted, peeled, and chopped
*2 medium tomatoes, chopped
*1/2 cup tomato puree (not pictured above. I'm useless.)
*4 cloves of garlic
*hot red pepper flakes, 1-2 tsp (optional)
*3/4 tsp smoked paprika
*1 pinch saffron strands (the 2 finger pinch, not all 5 fingers)

This is to scale. I used the amount remaining in the little box.
*Preserved lemon, 1 quarter
*2-3 dried bay leaves
*1/2-1 tbs rice wine vinegar (not pictured. Dammit!!!)
*salt and pepper to taste
*1 Maggi chicken bouillon cube (my mom would be so proud!)
*1.5 cups jasmine rice
*Water, 2-2.5 cups (if you have chicken stock,use that instead, and nix the maggi cube)
*Olive oil and 1 tbs butter

The first thing to do is to cut up the Cornish hen into portions.

Mango: What term can I use to describe cutting chicken or poultry into pieces? Portioning? Chopping?
Panda: Portioning.
Mango: Okay.
Panda: Ihatechickens-ing.
Mango: Okay.
Panda: Chickensmustdie-ing.
Mango: I get it. Thanks.

I actually did the portioning part myself! I watched and learned from Panda every time he would delicately take apart poultry, and I was quite proud of myself for not having butchered the poor little hen. Poor little hen. Like it isn't already dead. But still, I treated it well, like we try to do with all our food. Any leftover bones have been placed in a freezer bag for stock-making at a later date. We try our best to use every part of whatever we've purchased to cook. Be good to your food! 

Okay, so the hen has been cut. Season with salt and pepper. 

Heat up a generous amount of olive oil and a tablespoon of butter in a dutch oven pot, and brown the 
Cornish hen portions on high heat.

Remove and set aside. Juices may start to drain from the Cornish hen but do not discard! All of it will go back into the pot later.

Lower the heat to medium and add the chopped onion, green pepper, poblano pepper, chopped garlic, hot red pepper flakes (optional) and bay leaves. Season with a little pinch of salt and pepper. Stir fry until the green pepper softens and onions become translucent.

Add the smoked paprika. Stir fry for a couple more minutes. Then add about a half tablespoon of rice wine vinegar and used this to deglaze. You can of course use white wine (and if you do, you can use way more than half a tablespoon), but I didn't have any handy. Note that vinegar is not an equal substitute for white wine. I used it here because, well, I just wanted to, okay? [Side note: Have you ever noticed how Rachel Ray sometimes suggests the most nonsensical food substitutes? "If you don't have chicken stock, go ahead and use a little orange juice instead!", or "No milk? Try EVOO! Use what you have, I always say!". I'm not a chef and I don't know nuthin 'bout nuthin, but I'm almost sure that OJ doesn't taste like chicken. But I could be wrong. I do like her though, she always seems happy.]
After deglazing, add the chopped tomatoes and chicken bouillon cube. I think this is when I also added the saffron. Stir fry for a couple of minutes until tomatoes soften.
Then add the preserved lemon.......

......but only the rind and not the pulp. 
These are Meyer lemon preserves (macerated in salt and spices) that Panda had made months ago from a bunch of lemons given to him by friends who have a Meyer lemon tree. Preserved lemons are really fantastic in a number of cuisines - Spanish, Latin American, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern - to name a few. 

Panda: I used Jamie Oliver's preserved lemon recipe for these.  They're super simple to make, and a jar of them will last you a long time.  Make sure you use organic lemons (or lemons from your friend's tree).

Once you add the preserved lemon quarter, it will incorporate amongst the tomatoes, peppers and onions, making everything just a little tart, tangy, and delicious. If you don't have preserved lemon, you can throw in a couple slices of fresh lemon or lime. 

Add the tomato puree, stir everything together and cook for about 5 minutes. 

Add the browned Cornish hen and any juices back to the pot. Coat the hen portions in the sauce, add about a cup of water (or enough to just barely cover the hen pieces), plop the lid on, and cook on medium heat for 10 minutes. 

Add the rice, and about a half cup of water. Mix everything together. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and put the lid back on.

Let the rice hang out with the Cornish hen for about 30 minutes, or until the rice is cooked and fluffy. I totally sucked at this part. I kept underestimating how much water was needed and how long the rice would take to cook, so I had to keep peeking and adding more water as needed until the rice was done. Unable to get rice right. Someone take away my Indian card. 

But eventually, it worked out. Rice is done!

Just a little bit tangy, with subtle smokiness from the paprika and poblano, sweetness from the tomatoes and bell pepper, and a touch of color from the saffron. Altogether, very tasty.
I hope you try it and enjoy it too! This recipe is pretty forgiving, so you can play around with it as you wish. If you don't have Cornish hen, you can of course use chicken. Or sea cucumber! (Do not use sea cucumber.)

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