Cornish Game Hen over Polenta with Marsala Sauce
July 13, 2011

Every once in a while I get the desire for a meal that's not only comforting, but well composed. A meal that looks like it was served at a restaurant, rather than the typical rustic, homey presentation I normally create. This can be achieved relatively easily with a few changes to a meal plan. Changes like stacking your ingredients instead of placing them around the plate, using more sauces, or varying textures and bright colors can give a meal a more formal feeling. Or, if you're feeling lazy but still want to be fancy, just call one of the flavors "infused", any sort of food with a coating "encrusted", or simply have the title of the dish describe every single ingredient. Your fried chicken and spicy greens can become "Paprika, Cayenne, and Milled Wheat Encrusted Domestic Fowl served with Blanched Smooth-Leaved Kale Greens Infused with Chili and Salt". But if you do want to take the time or effort to plate a nice, more formal meal, this is a lovely combination of flavors and textures, and could be great for impressing your guests. I put this meal together based around wanting to use my favorite sauce, the savory sage-y Marsala Sauce, whose strong flavor created by reduction pairs well with the simple game hen and polenta. The crispy skin of the hen and the crunchy lightly steamed vegetables help to balance the soft creaminess of the polenta. Game hen is also a great way of having roasted chicken without making so many servings. Despite its title, game hen is not a different bird, just a young and therefore small chicken.

Sage happens to be my favorite herb, so I love how strong it is in this Marsala sauce but you could definitely use less sage and still have a flavorful sauce. The sauce can also be reduced more or less to control its strength depending on your taste, it's flavorful before reducing and is amazing when reduced down to almost a syrup. Since the hen and polenta are simply flavored, any strong sauce would be great as a substitute- mole sauce, pesto, satay, et cetera. The polenta can be made with chicken stock instead of water for added flavor, and while vegetable stock would add flavor too, it will make the polenta brown instead of its usual vibrant yellow. For both the polenta and the Marsala sauce, the drippings of fat and olive oil from the hen can replace the margarine if you make the game hen ahead of time. This will add more flavor to each, is a more traditional flavor for these dishes, and creates less waste- but it will add some extra fat and calories. Butter can also replace the margarine in the sauce and polenta if kosherness and added calories are not an issue. I can often find sales on game hens, often frozen which doesn't affect the meat much, but a full grown roasted chicken would work just as well if it's a better price or if you want to serve a larger group. To make this meal the most efficiently, get the hen in the oven first. Make the Marsala sauce and leave it to reduce, and then make the polenta. While these are cooking or while the meat is resting, lightly steam the vegetables, which in this case are French green beans and baby carrots. To assemble the meal, place half of the polenta on each plate. Center a game hen leg on top of each pile of polenta. Drizzle half of the Marsala sauce over each plate, and place vegetables on the side. This meal is about 500 calories and 25 grams of fat, which is a lot more than some of my dishes. This could be thought of as a special meal if this is more than usual for you, or you could simply plate smaller portions.
Roasted Cornish Game Hen
Kathleen Neumark

1 whole Cornish Game Hen (around 1 pound)
1 tablespoon of Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 450. Rub game hen with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Tie legs together with kitchen string if desired for more even cooking. Roast hen in a baking pan breast side down until done, for around 35 minutes. Hen is done if the thickest part of the thigh comes to 165 degrees, or if when cut the juices of the bird run clear. Rest for at least 15 minutes before carving the bird. A good serving is about a quarter of a bird- a leg, thigh, and a bit of extra meat.

Calories*: 218 Fat*: 16 g Carbs*: 0 g Cholesterol*: 130 mg
Sugar*: 0 g Fiber*: 0 g Protein*: 19 g Servings*: 2 (1 Leg, Plus Some each)

Ease*: 7/10 Categories: Main Dish
Total Time*: 45 minutes Active Time*: 10 minutes
Kosher: Meat

Marsala Sauce
Adapted from Bon Appetit

1 tablespoon Vegetable Margarine
1 tablespoon Chopped Fresh Sage
12 cup Dry Marsala Wine
12 cup Chicken or Vegetable Stock

Melt the margarine in a small saucepan. Add the sage and sauté over medium heat until sage is browned. Add wine and broth, and simmer over low heat until sauce is reduced by half (should be about 12 cup).

Calories*: 108 Fat*: 4.5 g Carbs*: 9 g Cholesterol*: 0 mg
Sugar*: 4 g Fiber*: 1 g Protein*: 1 g Servings*: 2 (1 cup(s) each)

Ease*: 9/10 Categories: Component
Total Time*: 30 minutes Active Time*: 10 minutes
Kosher: Meat or Parve

Basic Polenta
Kathleen Neumark

2 cups Water
1 teaspoon Salt
12 cup plus 1 tablespoon Yellow Cornmeal
1 tablespoon Vegetable Margarine

In a small pot, heat water to a boil. Add salt and gradually whisk the cornmeal into the water, if you do not add it gradually while whisking it will be very lumpy. Turn heat to low, stir occasionally and cook polenta until mixture is nice and thick, around 20 minutes. Take polenta off of the heat, and stir in 1 tablespoon of vegetable margarine to finish. This needs to be plated or stored soon, because as it cools it will hold its shape.

Calories*: 166 Fat*: 5 g Carbs*: 27 g Cholesterol*: 0 mg
Sugar*: 0 g Fiber*: 3 g Protein*: 3 g Servings*: 2 (0 of the mix each)

Ease*: 8/10 Categories: Starch
Total Time*: 30 minutes Active Time*: 20 minutes
Kosher: Parve


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