I regret that I used up all my hyphen jokes in a previous post, because this one has three hyphenated dishes!
The menu: Hoisin-Glazed Hens; Spicy Cucumber-Scallion Pickles; Citrus-Cashew Salad; Kiwi Fruit in Jasmine Tea Syrup
Suggested order: Rub, stuff and tie hens and refrigerate; steep tea, make syrup and refrigerate; roast hens, and make pickled cucumbers; cook rice and toss salad; slice kiwis and assemble dessert.
Again, I was able to procure everything at the regular grocery store, except the ginger. I didn’t even attempt to find locally sourced, free-range Cornish hens, especially not after the recent Non-eviscerated Squab Incident. Besides, Kroger has them on sale for a dollar off. This menu was supposed to be next week’s, but it calls for kumquats and I still have some left over so I figured I would FF to this recipe to save me from having to buy more.
Martha has a nice little aside that it’s only slightly more work to prepare 4 hens than one whole chicken, and the outcome–“a gorgeously glazed hen on each plate” is worth it. It’s quite a bit pricier, though. We made half a recipe, so two hens.
The recipe calls for mincing garlic, ginger, and a red chile pepper. I found that last one unacceptably vague. What kind of red chile, Martha? I envisioned one of those skinny Thai peppers, since the recipe says two peppers should get you 2 T of minced pepper, but I didn’t find it at either store I went to that day. I ended up with some kind of red, jalapeño-looking thing. It was pretty hot. This minced goodness is rubbed on the skin, and under it, then the cavity is stuffed with cilantro, the legs are tied with twine, and it’s refrigerated for 20 minutes.
(waves to nephew)
I, um, totally screwed up which was the top/breast of the hen, and put the minced spices on the wrong side. Whoops! Also, I think it would be easier to make the garlic/chile/ginger into a paste in the food processor and then rub it on and under the skin. In addition I did not care for the trussing of the hen. The husband thinks we need a trussing needle and I can assure him that we most certainly do not.
After the quick marinade, the hens are brushed with hoisin sauce. She recommends Kikkomen or Lee Kum Kee brands but I chose the bottle with no preservatives, and the lowest amount of salt and sugar, which is made by Lucky Sun brand. The hens are then roasted, with a few basting sessions, until the thighs reach 170 degrees, about 45-50 minutes (please note that the marinating and roasting times already put us at over an hour, but she contends that everything else can be done while the hens cook). Please excuse the blurry photo…
The results: Yum! The bits with the seasoning, especially the ginger and chile, had a nice, complex flavor. The pieces with just the hoisin sauce were a tad sweet, but still tasty. I would make this again, but maybe use a whole chicken, or just chicken breasts, just because it would be easier and more conducive to leftovers. We didn’t taste the cilantro, so I am tad irritated my hand was up this thing’s butt for no reason.
Spicy Cucumber-Scallion Pickles:
The recipe says to cut half an English cucumber and four scallions into 2″ pieces. Rice wine vinegar, red pepper flakes and sugar are boiled together to make a sauce, then poured over the vegetables; it sits for 30 minutes to pickle. The veggies are then scooped out of the liquid and served.
I LOVED these with the rice, which was an optional dish. They are so tasty– a bit spicy, with a nice amount of tang. I always love the condiment and dipping sauces made with spicy rice vinegar at Vietnamese restaurants, and this reminds me of that. They worked perfectly with the hens, especially when I got a bite that was a bit sweet.
The only problem was that this barely made enough for the two of us, and it was supposed to serve four. I would probably at least double it next time. Look how teeny the batch is, and it’s on a salad plate:
There was a ton of the vinegar sauce left over, so we made another batch the next night, microwaving the vineger before soaking the cucumbers, and they were spicier this time; the red pepper flakes had really infused into the vinegar.
The recipe calls for six sliced kumquats, two clementines, four stalks of celery, and half a cup of cashews, dressed with a mixture of lemon juice, olive oil, honey and pepper. I was skeptical about the celery, but it gave a nice bit of crunch and savoriness to the salad. I was also worried about the dressing, since in the last meal I didn’t care for the honey with the pepper and olive oil. But this worked perfectly together. It was so beyond citrusy, and would be great in summer if you could find kumquats. The cashews weren’t as exciting as you would think, but I was glad they were in attendance. I can see adding coconut flakes, too.
The only downside is, again, this made a tiny amount. It works out to 1/2 of a clementine and 1.5 itty kumquats per person. I guess she thought that if you are eating an entire Cornish hen you won’t have room for much else. I only ate half my hen, Martha, so may I please have seconds on the fruits and veggies?!
(This may be TMI, but I burped later on and it totally tasted like kumquats–nice and citrusy.)
Kiwi Fruit in Jasmine Tea Syrup:
A friend mentioned this dish before knowing I had plans to make it, so it would seem that this is a “real” recipe. It involves making a sugar syrup combined with some jasmine green tea and adding kiwi slices. Martha loves her sugar syrups almost as much as her Old People Dairy Desserts (TM).
I don’t care much for most green teas, as they taste like grass to me, so I was reluctant to buy a box of jasmine green tea to use 1 tablespoon of it. Luckily I remembered that the natural food store sells tea by the ounce, so I managed to get what I needed for less than a quarter, compared to $4 for a box of it. Woot.
The cook book includes a paragraph on how to peel a kiwi, and this might actually be useful information: slice off both ends, slide a spoon between the flesh and skin, working your way around and slide out the kiwi in one piece. HOWEVER, it does not work. For me. Maybe my spoon was too big. It ended up removing the outer layer of kiwi, so I lost some of the fruit. Note that she doesn’t say how to get the actual kiwi out once you have disengaged it from its skin. Mine ended up hacked up. Not pretty–these are the best of the batch:
The results: I did not care for this at all, which is too bad because I have been waiting for a grand slam from this book. I guess maybe I just don’t care for jasmine, because I thought the syrup tasted like herbal soap. I took one bite and decided to just have the citrus salad for dessert. Oh, why coudn’t she have left well enough alone and ended at kumquats?
Truth be told, The Husband kind of liked it. Normally he doesn’t care for the acidity of kiwi, but evidently putting soap on it helps. To each his own.
It took about an hour and forty minutes to cook. This is probably our favorite meal so far. Except for that thing that shall not be named at the end, it was all great and I would make it again. I find it very curious that two of my favorite meals have been Asian-inspired. I would not have expected that from a Martha Stewart cookbook. She’s full of surprises, that one.
Hens: A (will add more chile, and to the proper side, next time)
Pickled cukes: A
Citrus salad: A
Jasmine kiwi: C- (I would choose the bland runny pudding and clumpy caramel sauce over this one)