In the autumn, when the weather cools and a sharp nip is in the air, there’s nothing more satisfying than deliciously old-fashioned comfort food. This is one of those dishes that will fill the whole house with a rich, mouth-watering aroma as it gently warms the kitchen. The earthiness of wild mushrooms, the mild sweetness of chestnuts and the savory flavor of braised game hens remind us that fall is the season of harvest and that the summer’s bounty is ready to be enjoyed with friends and family.
Simple and easy enough to enjoy around the kitchen table for a casual weekend dinner, this elegant dish is festive enough for company. Set the table with linen napkins and the good china and you’ll be ready for any occasion.
Here’s a quick cooking tip: while we prefer using fresh chestnuts and mushrooms while they’re in season, this wonderfully rustic dish can be enjoyed any time of the year. These days, frozen or preserved chestnuts of excellent quality are readily available year round, as are dried and frozen mushrooms, so you don’t have to wait for the fall chestnut harvest to make it.
Cornish Game Hens with Wild Mushrooms, Chestnuts & Bacon
- 2 Cornish Game Hens, about 16 – 18 oz each
- sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1/2 cup Madeira
- 1 large onion, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- 2 slices thick-sliced bacon, cut into 1/4 inch strips
- 3 Tbsp flour
- 2 cups chicken stock, heated
- 6 oz peeled chestnuts (see our previous post “Roasting Fresh Chestnuts” for additional information)
- 12 oz fresh or frozen wild mushrooms (porcini, chanterelles, hen of the woods etc)
or 1/2 oz dried mushrooms, reconstituted
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Season the game hens with salt & pepper. Over medium heat, melt the butter in a heavy lidded oven-safe pot or casserole large enough to hold both birds. Brown the hens on all sides and remove them to a large dish. Pour off the excess fat from the cooking pot. Return the pot to the heat and add the Madeira. Stir with a spoon, scraping up the bits from the bottom. Pour the juices over the hens and set them aside.
Wipe the bottom of the pot, return to medium heat and add the bacon. Cook the bacon until lightly browned. Spoon off the excess fat and add the onions and celery. Cook until the vegetables begin to soften slightly. Stir in the flour thoroughly and remove from the heat.
Stir in the hot chicken stock gradually until it is completely combined with the flour. Add the chestnuts, mushrooms, game hens and their juices. Return to a gentle simmer, then cover tightly and place in the preheated oven for about one hour, or until the game hens are tender and the leg joint moves easily.
Lift the game hens, chestnuts, mushrooms and vegetables from the pot and transfer to a warm serving plate. On the stovetop, bring the sauce back to a boil, add the lemon juice, and season to taste with salt & pepper.
Pour the sauce into a sauce boat or pitcher and serve at the table with the game hens.
Many of the ingredients used in this recipe, and other recipes on the Earthy Delights Blog, can be purchased online at our retail website, Earthy.com. We welcome you to visit the Earthy.com website to view our extensive selection of hard-to-find ingredients and our complete Recipe Collection of over 500 tested recipes.
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