- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Zest of 1 lemon, cut into thin strips
- 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
- Four 1 1/4-pound Cornish hens, legs tied together with kitchen string
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon minced onion
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
- 1/3 cup pomegranate seeds (see Note)
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
- 2 tablespoons honey
- Combine the oil, lemon zest and 1/2 teaspoon of the chile powder in a small bowl. Put 2 Cornish hens in each of 2 large resealable plastic bags. Add half of the marinade to each bag, seal the bags and rub the marinade all over the hens. Refrigerate overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 350°. Spread the pine nuts on a baking sheet and toast for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the pine nuts are lightly browned.
- Raise the oven temperature to 375°. Remove the hens from the bags, scraping off any excess marinade; pour the marinade into a bowl. Season the hens inside and out with salt and black pepper.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the marinade in a heavy skillet. Add 2 of the hens and cook over high heat, turning once, until golden and crisp, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the hens to a large roasting pan, breast side up. Repeat with 1 more tablespoon of the marinade and the remaining hens; set the skillet aside.
- Roast the hens for about 50 minutes, or until the juices run clear when the thighs are pierced with a knife. Transfer the hens to a platter and let rest for 15 minutes. Pour the pan juices into a bowl and skim off the fat.
- Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the skillet and set it over moderately high heat. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook just until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the pomegranate seeds, lemon juice, pine nuts, cumin, coriander, cayenne and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of chile powder. Cook, scraping up any browned bits, until the liquid is nearly evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock and honey and bring to a boil. Cook until reduced to 3/4 cup, about 12 minutes. Add the reserved pan juices. Transfer the hens to plates, spoon the sauce on top and serve.
To remove the seeds from a pomegranate, cut off the crown of the fruit. Score the skin in quarters and transfer the fruit to a bowl of cold water. Working in the water, peel off the skin and remove the seeds from the membranes; discard the skin and membranes as you go. Drain the seeds.
Look for a juicy Beaujolais-Villages wine, which enhances the taste of the game hens without overpowering the garnish.