This simple preparation can be used to roast any bird, but is especially good for wild game birds, as it showcases and gently accents their natural flavors. If you are going to use this glaze for turkey, we recommend doubling the amounts for the glaze so you have plenty for basting. Serve with Brussels sprouts, sautéed cabbage, sauerkraut or a potato and mushroom gratin.
Serves 4-8 depending on the size of the birds
4 squab or cornish game hens, about 1 lb. each (see Chef’s Note)
4 cups freshly pressed apple juice or cider
1 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon
3 teaspoons cornstarch
Place apple juice or cider in a small saucepan and reduce to about 3 cups to concentrate the flavor. Remove giblets from cavities and clean each bird well. Dry birds, and place in a roasting pan just large enough to contain them without crowding. Pour half of the apple juice reduction over the hens. Bake uncovered at 350° F for 45 minutes.
Make a slurry with the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of the apple juice reduction. Place a small pan over medium heat, and combine the remaining apple juice reduction and cinnamon; mix well. Add 4 lemon slices and the slurry, and whisk well until thickened. Remove from heat.
Remove birds from the oven after 45 minutes and baste them with some of the thickened sauce. Return to the oven and continue to bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until skin is crisped and browned and the juices run clear. Garnish with the remaining lemon slices and serve with remaining apple glaze.
You may also make a pan gravy with the juices, but the Apple-Cinnamon Glaze imparts a sweet and clean flavor to the birds.
[Chef’s Note: Frozen, packaged Cornish Hens are readily available in supermarkets, or freshly killed in specialty butcher shops. Squab is less common, but can be ordered from your butcher, and is superior in flavor to other birds. A 1-lb. squab can serve two people, as it is much richer than hen. If you like, you can split the birds down the middle before roasting.
If you are using this glaze to roast turkey, be sure to double the quantities of ingredients for the glaze.]
Recipe by Mark Tafoya
Photo by Jeff Goulding, Times-Herald Record