December 14, 2017
Well it’s been almost ten days since I made this Cornish Hens dish. But as is typical for me in December, life seems to happen much faster than during other times of the year. Sigh. Life. Sigh.
For my first seasonally inspired dish, I chose Cornish Hens with Bosc Pears and Endive from Lynn Crawford‘s cookbook, Farm to Chef. [Not an affiliate link, just linked if anyone is interested in checking it out.]
Truth be told, I have never eaten Cornish Hens nor have I ever eaten endive. (See my previous post if you are curious about the backstory of how I landed on this recipe and how I decipher which produce is in season here in the PNW.) So this recipe forced me to try two new food items as well as multiple techniques–one of which was caramelizing the endive and pears, which I totally botched. More on this later.
First, I had to Google how to de-backbone a Cornish Hen. A YouTube video showing the exact technique popped up. YouTube is a magical magical place folks, and is 100% my go-to when I need to learn a technique quickly. After not-so-swiftly de-backboning it, I turned to the endive.
First off, endive.
The name makes it sound far more enticing than I believe it is. (Even after eating it in this dish.) Granted, I botched the caramelizing process, but even then, if the creamy goodness of the sweet sauce mixed with butter couldn’t save the bitter taste of the endive, I don’t know what will. I think it may fall into a category of food I fondly consider: “probably never again but it wasn’t terrible.” It reminds me of napa cabbage. It tastes bitter, and sort of has that watery, stringy texture that I associate with napa cabbage, onions, and celery. I have no idea if there is an actual term for it, but honestly there probably is.
The pears on the other hand were d e l i c i o u s. I could eat them soaked in white wine, brown sugar, orange zest and juice, and sage every day. Seriously. SO GOOD. Even if I didn’t properly caramelize them, they still turned out delectable.
Invest in one of those apple-coring kitchen gadgets and it will save you so much time for this recipe. I used it and BAM! perfectly sliced pears in 5 seconds. Seriously, some kitchen gadgets are so worth it.
Photos I snapped during the cooking process: (scroll down for the rest of the blog post)
All in all, I am very pleased with how this “restaurant-style dish,” as I fondly refer to it, turned out. I can check endive off my list of things to try and I learned a couple of important lessons while fumbling through this recipe:
- Understand the techniques needed in a recipe BEFORE you start cooking. Cooking happens very quickly and doesn’t wait for you to stop, pull up YouTube and figure out what the caramelizing means. Worst case scenario: the food burns while you are busy trying to figure out how the heck to caramelize something. I realize this is a *pretty* basic technique. BUT since I am just starting to dive into the cooking world and home cooking with recipes, there are a lot of techniques and terminology I don’t get understand.
- If you leave the hen skin side down and don’t put down enough oil or move it around when you are checking to make sure it’s not sticking to the cast iron, IT WILL STICK TO THE CAST IRON. Which means, all of your well seasoned, yummy skin flavors will also stick to the cast iron. And you may be a sad chef. You’ve been forewarned.
- A good sauce makes a meal POP. It takes something that was good to something that is GREAT.
- Ingredients matter. Better quality ingredients = better quality meal. Simple math folks! I pay attention to how the hens are raised. If I’m going to be eating meat, I want to be eating as high-quality meat as possible. And to me, that means eating pasture-raised whenever applicable, and wild whenever possible. This also means I don’t eat as much meat as plants on a weekly basis. But honestly, I feel better when I eat more plants and only a small amount of meat. (But also no judgement, to each their own. UNLESS you are eating factory farmed meat three meals a day and refuse to make small shifts in your buying patterns, then I am judging.)
- I enjoy cooking with a whole animal. It reminds me that what I am eating didn’t come pre-packaged as a neat pork chop or steak, but that it comes from an animal. While that may come as a no-brainer to a lot of people, it actually is quite shocking if what you are used to are cuts of meat not resembling an animal in any way. For me, that visual reminder that this meat is in fact an animal means I think about a way to use the whole bird and not waste any parts. It also means I say a silent “thank-you” to the animal.
- Endive is not for me. AND MORE POWER TO THE PEOPLE WHO LIKE IT, YA’LL ARE THE TRUE HEROS.
At the end of the experience, my major take-aways were:
- Wow, creating a truly seasonal dish from my area of the country means not having citrus to include in the soaking sauce. I wonder what I could replace the orange with to give it the same effect, but create a meal that could be completely local…
- What does it take for a meal to be truly local? Everything needed to make the meal from within 200* miles? And I mean e v e r y t h i n g. Salt, pepper, hens, sage, chicken stock, wine, sugar, etc. What even grows in my area?! *Arbitrary distance I picked that means “local” to me.
I don’t have the answers yet, but you better believe I’m going to do my research and see how to make local, seasonal meals using ingredients from my area of the world.
Let the journey into seasonal, local eating COMMENCE!
Recipe is in the book*.
*Since I’m not sure what the copy rights are as of right now, I am purposely leaving the recipe out of the blog. I went to my local library to check out this book and get the recipe for free. Libraries are a great resource! Use them!