For a charmingly upscale main course, consider Rock Cornish game hen (a hybrid cross between a Plymouth Rock hen and Cornish game cock). At only 1 to 1 1/2 pounds each, these are pint-sized poultry -- just enough for one or two people. The tender, all-white-meat birds can be prepared any way you'd cook chicken or turkey, but are at their best braised, broiled or roasted.
* Frozen Rock Cornish game hens are available at most supermarkets; fresh game hens may have to be ordered.
* To prepare game hens for cooking, rinse thoroughly; pat dry with paper towels.
* To ensure that whole or halved game hens are done, insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. The bird is safe to eat when the temperature reaches 180 degrees, according to the USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline, 800-535-4555. The juices should be clear, with no pink tinge.
Game Hens in Apple Brandy
2 Rock Cornish game hens (about 1 1/2 pounds each)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups peeled and thinly sliced green apples
1/2 cup thinly sliced onions
1/4 cup apple brandy
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup half-and-half
salt and pepper, to taste
green apple slices, for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, quickly brown birds in oil on all sides. Place apples and onions around birds. Pour brandy over birds and let it heat for 1 minute, then carefully ignite, using a long fireplace match. Shake pan until flames subside.
Dust top of birds with nutmeg. Cover Dutch oven and bake until internal temperature of thigh registers 180 degrees (about 25 to 30 minutes for 1-pound birds; 35 to 40 minutes for larger ones).
Remove hens, apples and onions to a platter; keep warm in oven.
Over medium-high heat, bring pan juices to a simmer, then stir in half-and-half. Let mixture cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently; season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour around birds and serve at once. Garnish with slices of green apple, if desired.