Port and Starboard Hens
I do occasionally find an intriguing new recipe in a magazine but most of the new things I try now come either from epicurious.com, other people's blogs or, like this new dish, a recipe sent via email from a friend.
Annie and Jim are Navy pals - I met Annie when we were both 13-year old Navy juniors in Norfolk, Virginia and, in the way of Navy families, re-connected more than once in different duty stations over the years. At age 13, both being animal lovers, we bonded over pets and both being boy crazy at the time, we confabbed constantly over which guys we liked best. Annie introduced me to my first husband; our family pampered her when she was pregnant and her husband was out at sea. Annie came to my wedding and we visited her and Jim in Arizona where she lives now. We've kept in touch over the years, but sporadically until the internet came along to connect us on an almost daily basis. One of the benefits of this connection is the recipe swapping we enjoy.
Annie and Jim are wonderful cooks. They always start with great ingredients, and then improve on them. So, when Annie sent me this recipe for Cornish hens with Meyer lemon, fennel, garlic and olives from her ranch in Arizona, I knew it would be yummy. And, it's simplicity itself to prepare.
Jim's instructions for making this dish start by whacking the hens into Port and Starboard halves, hence the name I have given it. First, you slice a nice, fat fennel bulb crosswise into thin rings, peel as many garlic cloves (3-4 or more) as you like and slice them in half. Then slice one of your two Meyer lemons thinly and cut the other one in 8 wedges. Loosening the skin on the hen halves, slide two or three lemon slices per hen under the skin of breast and thighs, patting the skin back in place over the slices. Oil the skin of the hens with a little olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt (I used fleur de sel as I had it on hand) and a few grinds of pepper.
In a roasting pan, scatter the sliced fennel, garlic clove halves, the Meyer lemon wedges and half a cup each of nicoise and picholine olives on the bottom and lay the hens on top of the veggies, drizzling with just a little more olive oil. Roast in a 425 degree oven for about 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees for about 20 minutes longer, until the juices run clear. The fennel and garlic will have started to caramelize and the hens will be golden brown. Serve the hens alongside some of the veggies. Jim suggests brown rice as an accompaniment but, not having any on hand, we roasted some fingerling potatoes instead.
Having received this dinner idea from a dear friend in Arizona via the internet, now I can share it with my blogging pals all over the world. Ain't technology grand?
Later: if you want a more detailed recipe, Cookiecrumb has a link in the comments for this post - check it out!