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Cornish hens prove it’s OK to be a little chicken

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Cornish Hens Glazed with Honey and Wrapped in Bacon

4 Cornish hens

2 onions, coarsely chopped

2 Tbsp. honey

12 slices bacon or pancetta

6 leeks, trimmed, chopped into 2-inch pieces

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 tsp. salt

Freshly ground pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Stuff the hens with onions. Brush all over with honey; cover the breast of each with 3 slices bacon or pancetta. Settle into a roasting pan.

Toss the leeks with the oil; add to the pan, tucking them in around the birds. Season with the salt and pepper to taste. Roast, 45-60 minutes. If the bacon begins to blacken, cover hens with foil.

Remove the birds from the pan; keep warm. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the leeks to a serving dish; keep warm. Tilt the pan to one side; skim away any fat. Pour a little hot water into the roasting pan; set over high heat. Heat to a boil, scraping up any crispy bits from the bottom of the pan; simmer for a few minutes. Pour the pan sauce into a gravy boat or pitcher; serve with the hens and the leeks. Serves 6.

— From “Cooking Season by Season” (DK Publishing, $35).

Grilled Cornish Hens, German-style

If you can get to a grill and have a hankering for holiday cooking outdoors, try this recipe from “Texas Eats: The New Lone Star Heritage Cookbook.” (The Cornish hens can also be cooked in a grill pan or in the oven at 350 degrees.) Author Robb Walsh calls for a German riesling. Use if you have it, but a dry white wine will do. He also recommends serving this dish, based on a German recipe, with sweet-and-sour sauerkraut.

3 Cornish hens, split

1/2 tsp. each: salt, pepper

For glaze:

1/4 cup coarse-grain German mustard

2 Tbsp. German riesling

1 Tbsp. honey

1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Pinch ground mace

Pinch ground cloves

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for indirect-heat grilling over medium heat. Meanwhile, carefully remove as much skin as possible from the hens. Season hens with salt and pepper.

Combine the glaze ingredients in a bowl; mix thoroughly.

Cook the hen halves, bone side down, directly over the fire until lightly browned. Move them to the cooler part of the grill grate; cover. Cook, turning at midpoint, 20-25 minutes. Prick a thigh with a fork to check for doneness. If the juices run clear, move the hen halves back over the fire; brush them on both sides with the glaze. Finish them, turning often, until nicely browned on both sides. Serves 6.

— From from “Texas Eats: The New Lone Star Heritage Cookbook” (Ten Speed Press, $25)

Roasted Cornish Game Hens

4 to 6 Tbsp. oil

1 cup fresh lemon juice

3 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary

4 to 6 Rock Cornish game hens (1 to 2 pounds each), split

¼ cup breadcrumbs

16 oz. ricotta cheese

1/4 cup grated lemon zest, no white attached

8 cloves garlic, chopped

3/4 tsp. salt

Freshly ground pepper

3 to 5 cups chicken stock or broth

Mix the oil, lemon juice and half the rosemary. Place the hens in a shallow dish, skin side down; pour the mixture over. Marinate, refrigerated, overnight.

Toss together the breadcrumbs, ricotta, lemon rind, remaining rosemary and garlic. Season with ½ teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Remove hens from marinade, reserving marinade. Gently slide fingers under the skin of each hen to release the skin from the surface. Spread the mixture evenly underneath the skins. Season the hen’s surface with remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Move the hens to a rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with some of the lemon marinade; refrigerate, uncovered, to dry the skin, 1 hour.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Distribute the hens skin side up, without overlapping, in a baking pan. Roast, 1 hour. Turn birds as needed to brown all over. The hens are cooked when the thickest part of the meat registers 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from pan; degrease the juices.

To make a sauce, add the stock to the pan. Heat to a boil, stirring the sides and bottom of the pan. Boil until reduced to ½ cup per bird, about 20 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Moisten the birds; pass the remaining sauce. Serves 6.

— From “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking” (Gibbs Smith, $45) by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart

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