As 2012 begins preparing to make its exit in order for the new year to boisterously make its entrance, I find myself feeling quite reflective. Perhaps it’s this way for me every year around this time, but somehow, I’m more consciously aware of it now. The twinkle of tiny, white lights strewn around city light posts decorated with fresh, fragrant holiday wreaths; the flicker of the flames in the fireplace; friends and family gathered around the candle-lit table, partaking together in food prepared from the heart and with love, mesmerize me and melt my heart. There’s a part of me that wants to hold these images suspended in time so that I may relish the warm feelings they evoke in me, but everything has its own time. Realizing that yet another year of life had been granted to me, another year bursting at the seams with learning and growing, replete with all of the various, brilliant colors and shades that have filled this year to the brim, in-turn creates the realization that life, indeed, is nothing short of miraculous. And even all of the little things, the seemingly insignificant interactions and happenstances, those sweet occurrences or encouraging experiences that just sort of dot and punctuate life, are all little miracles; they’re the bright, glowing lights of this holiday season, ones that never dim, the reasons for a softened heart and for gratitude, each a little chance to see God’s hidden qualities revealed. Life and the light within it, is quite miraculous, indeed.
During this time of year, I find myself inspired to create an atmosphere of warmth, love and coziness with the food that I prepare for the people in my life that I hold dear; I long to share how I feel on the inside, expressing it through my choices of what I cook. Christmas time seems to give permission to be a touch more extravagant with food than usual, a bit more decadent and a little more whimsical and comforting. Roasting is truly one of my favorite ways of creating that air of coziness, all while warming the kitchen, that wonderful “heart of the home”; and roasting has a way of gorgeously browning and extracting the delicious essence of the item being roasted, perfect for the tiny and succulent cornish game hen stuffed with a delicate herb bouquet and sweet citrus, and basted with a tangy orange marmalade glaze. Wonderful aromas fill the air, and bellies rumble in anticipation of good food. Connections are made between us when seats are taken at the table and we eat together and get a little vulnerable, and take in all of that scrumptious love that infused the food as it was being prepared. Food is quite the little miracle, if you ask me—another little taste of the goodness found in life, another simple example of the light.
Yes, I’ll admit that there have been times that I’ve wanted to hold this season still, and admire it like a picture in a book; but I think that’s behind me now. Christmas has its own unique place, its own special sliver of time. At the core of it, it is meant to be a time of reflection, inspiring gratitude for all that is. The spirit of Christmas is meant to usher us into the life that lay ahead of us, with eyes wide open to what is there before us, a glimpse of what our best self looks like. The light of this season illuminates what we have all around us, what we hold within us, so that each of us can see the little miracles in our own lives, and in turn, be little miracles in others lives, too. Good food, family and friends bring the flavor to life; and love, kindness and mercy, the light.
Taste what’s good and pass it on.
Sweet Citrus and Herb Bouquet-Stuffed Cornish Game Hens with Orange Marmalade Glaze
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4 cornish game hens (roughly 1 ½ lbs each), rinsed and dried off
• Sea salt
• Freshly cracked black pepper
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley, stems trimmed down
16 sprigs fresh thyme (about half a package)
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 lemons, sliced into 8 thin slices
2 small oranges, sliced into 8 thin slices
• Orange Marmalade Glaze (recipe below)
(*I seasoned and stuffed the hens 48 hrs in advance, placed them on a plate and then into a jumbo-sized zip-lock bag, and refrigerated them until an hour before roasting time—this imparted a lot of flavor into the hens; if you don’t have 48 hrs, then overnight is fine, too, if you’re looking for that little bit of extra “oomph” in the flavor department.)
-Preheat oven to 375; line a baking sheet with foil, and place a wire rack onto the baking sheet.
-Prepare the cornish game hens by liberally seasoning them, both inside the cavity and out, with the sea salt (about 1 tablespoons worth), the freshly cracked black pepper and the Italian seasoning.
-Next, prepare your herb bouquets by dividing the small bunch of flat-leaf parsley into 4 portions; add to the parsley about 4 sprigs of the fresh thyme and 1 sprig of the fresh rosemary, and tie the herb bouquet into a little bundle with some string (I used simple sewing thread), just to help the bouquets to stay together.
-Stuff one bouquet into the cavity of each hen, then stuff 2 slices of lemon and 2 slices of orange into the cavity as well; and place the hens on a wire rack, breast side up (I chose not to truss my hens, but you can if you prefer).
-Before placing the hens into the oven, brush some of the Orange Marmalade Glaze all over each hen (save some glaze to apply during the roasting). Now place the hens into the oven to roast on the lower-middle rack. After about 20 minutes, brush some more of the glaze over the hens, then continue to roast. After another 20 minutes, brush the hens with more glaze, then continue to roast for another 20-35 minutes, depending on the size of the hens. The total roasting time for the hens should be approx. 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, or until the internal temp reads 160° when inserted into the thigh and the juices run clear.
*If the skin begins to brown too much, simply cover the hens loosely with some foil, lightly sprayed with cooking spray, to prevent them from getting too dark.
-Once roasted, remove the hens from the oven, and allow them to rest for about 10-15 minutes; serve the hens while hot, one whole hen per person, with additional slices of fresh citrus for garnish, if you desire.
Orange Marmalade Glaze ingredients:
½ cup orange marmalade
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice
-Add the orange marmalade and the orange juice to a small pot set over medium-low heat, and stir to incorporate; once the mixture comes to the simmer, reduce the heat to low, and allow the mixture to simmer for about 10-12 minutes, until slightly reduced, stirring occasionally; once reduced, strain the mixture into a small bowl, and allow it to cool for about 20-25 minutes (it will also thicken up slightly) before using to glaze the hens.