The Upland Cookbook
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Lemon-Sage Cornish Game Hens With Tomato-Porcini Sauce

Robust ingredients and an elegant presentation: This dish captures all the romance of winter fireside dining. Break out a bottle of good Chianti to pour with supper.

  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 3/4 ounce dried porcini mushrooms*
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon plus 4 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 14-1/2 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes in juice, pureed in blender with juices
  • 1/2 cup canned low-salt chicken broth
  • 4 1-1/4- to 1-1/2 pound Cornish game hens, giblets removed
  • 4 large fresh sage sprigs
  • 1 lemon, cut into 4 wedges
  • Soft Polenta with Leeks
*Dried porcini mushrooms are available at Italian markets, specialty foods stores and many supermarkets.

Combine 3/4 cup of hot water and porcini mushrooms in small bowl. Let stand until mushrooms soften, about 30 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer mushrooms to work surface. Coarsely chop mushrooms. Set mushrooms and soaking liquid aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy medium skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon chopped sage and garlic. Saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add pureed tomatoes, broth, chopped mushrooms and soaking liquid, leaving any sediment from liquid behind. Simmer over medium-low heat until thickened to sauce consistency, about 25 minutes. (Sauce can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.).

Preheat oven to 450F. Pat hens dry with paper towels. Sprinkle cavities with salt and pepper. Place 1 sage sprig and 1 lemon wedge in cavity of each hen. Tie legs together to hold shape. Tuck wing tips under hen. Place hens on rack in large roasting pan. Rub remaining 2 tablespoons oil over hens. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon chopped sage over breast of each hen. Roast until hens are cooked through and juices run clear when thickest part of thigh is pierced, about 50 minutes. Transfer hens to platter. Tent with foil.

Pour pan juices from roasting pan into 1-cup glass measuring cup, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pan. Spoon fat off top of juices. Add pan juices to tomato sauce. Simmer 2 minutes to blend flavors. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon Soft Polenta with Leeks onto 4 plates. Spoon tomato sauce over polenta. Place hens atop polenta and serve. Serves 4.

From Bon Appetit, February, 1999

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