Thanksgiving for Two: Cornish Game Hens Stuffed With Sausage & Apple Risotto
We are only three days away from turkey day and my Thanksgiving dinner plans are completely up in the air. If you read my last post then you know that I'm not exactly infatuated with the turkey and stuffing gluttony. But let's face it. Thanksgiving definitely isn't about the bird (though for many it plays a big part in the holiday's awesomenes). Thanksgiving is about being around our loved ones and thinking about those things that we're so thankful to have in our lives.
Truth is, I'm a little sad that Chris and I will be thousands of miles away from our families this year. Whether our potential "Friendsgiving" plan works out, or we make a last-minute, miniature-sized Thanksgiving dinner for just the two of us, it's going to be undoubtedly different.
But enough with all that depressing banter! We get to go home for 11 days in December and words can't express my excitement! I'll figure out this Thanksgiving thing one way or another. And what's most important is that we will be together. That's what I am thankful for. Having my best friend with me in the city we're still exploring and still loving more and more with every month we live here. That, is what life is all about.
Upon realizing that Thanksgiving was a mere 7 days away last week, I panicked. Aside from a couple of "cheat meals" on the weekends, we've been eating really, really well. It's that wedding diet routine kicking us into serious gear! Because of this (rather boring) healthy eating game, I hadn't even begun to think about holiday-inspired recipes to prepare for my readers.
And then it dawned on me. What if I was to create a perfectly portioned Thanksgiving-inspired dinner for just the two of us? Surely we aren't the only ones who may have a tiny Thanksgiving...
I hadn't enjoyed a cornish hen in 10 years, probably since the last time my mom made them as an efforts to have Thanksgiving in the summer. So juicy, so tender, the little white-meat beauties are as delicious as they are pretty. I also remembered that much like a turkey, they're easy to stuff. Only thing is, I wasn't craving dressing (stuffing to all you non-southern people). I was craving risotto. But it'd have to be a risotto reminiscent of the cornbread dressing I enjoy. Sausage, Apple, and Thyme risotto. Boom. Oh, and there had to be some cranberry sauce for that element of sweet and savory. So I leaned on my favorite Food Network chef, Tyler Florence for an easy and traditional recipe.
Then, like magic, Thanksgiving for 2 was plated and was even better than I dreamed it'd be. Super simple, this dinner is delightfully elegant. Like, light some candles, turn on some jazz music, and enjoy a date night at home, elegant. Funny, because that's exactly what we did!
Thanksgiving for 2: Sausage, Apple, & Thyme Risotto Stuffed Cornish Game Hens with Cranberry Sauce
2- 1 1/2 lb. Cornish Game Hens
1 yellow onion, halved
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning, divided
salt and pepper
For the Risotto:
1/2 cup Arborio Rice
1/3 pound sweet Italian turkey sausage, removed from casings (use whatever flavor sausage you like as long as it's ground and encased)
1 medium to large Granny Smith apple, cut in 1-inch cubes
4 cups chicken broth
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 sprigs Thyme, leaves removed
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
Cranberry Sauce: My go-to Recipe here (courtesy of the sexy Chef Tyler Florence)
1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rinse the hens and pat dry with paper towels. Rub 1 tablespoon butter all over each hen (inside and out). Season with salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning. Stuff each hen with 1/2 yellow onion. Place in a roasting pan and put in the oven for 50-60 minutes.
2. Pour 4 cups chicken broth into a large saucepan and bring to a simmer. Prepare cranberry sauce (easy recipe here) and set aside.
3) While the hens are roasting, prepare the risotto. Using a medium saucepan over medium heat, cook sausage in 1 tablespoon olive oil, breaking it up in small pieces with a spoon. Remove the sausage from the pan and set aside. Add the chopped shallot and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Then, add the minced garlic and chopped apple and cook for one minute. Push apples and shallot to one side of the pan and add the Arborio rice. Toast rice for one minute and then add 1/3 cup white wine. Stir continuously, until all of the wine has been absorbed by the rice. Then, one ladle at a time, add the simmering chicken broth. Let the rice completely absorb the broth before adding the next ladle. Continue this process until the rice has doubled in quantity and is al dente. Feel free to taste test. When risotto is finished cooking, add the sausage, thyme, and parmesan cheese and stir until combined. Risotto should only take about 25 minutes.
4) When hens still have about 15-20 minutes of cooking time left, remove from oven and using tongs, turn them so that the cavity is facing up. Then, with a serving spoon, stuff hens with risotto until they're completely full. It's okay if you have some risotto leftover!
5) Return hens to the oven and cook additional 15 minutes, or until internal temperature reads 165 degrees.
6) Remove from the oven and let cool for 5-7 minutes. Serve over cranberry sauce.