Pan-Roasted Cornish Hens with Calvados and Apples

Andrew Zimmern’s Kitchen Adventures

I can’t eat an apple without thinking of Normandy. If you’ve never been there in the fall, you really should go; the ocean can be slate gray and the food is phenomenal at that time of year—game birds and oysters, mushrooms and apples. It’s heaven on Earth. Oh, and you get to eat cheese without guilt all day and night. I got this recipe from an ancient French farmhouse cookbook and have tweaked it over the years. I make this dish all during the cold-weather months, which include everything but July here in Minnesota.

This is the ultimate French version of the Italian concept of agrodolce. How’s that for a culinary-history argument starter! Regardless of pedigree, this northern country French standard has been a fall favorite of ours for years. The Calvados, the apple vinegar and the apples themselves lend a sophisticated quality to this dish that I have not found in any other versions of this type of recipe. I have also made this dish with pork shoulder, turkey parts, even baby goat legs. Despite the addition of cream, this is not as heavy as you would expect, but don’t give in to the temptation to lighten it up. This is a sinful meal.—Andrew Zimmern

Slideshow:Sweet and Savory Apple Recipes

  • Total Time:
  • Servings: 4

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  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 Cornish hens, quartered and backbones removed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 5 shallots, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 1/2 cup Calvados
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Granny Smith apples—peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup dried currants

How to make this recipe

  1. In a large deep skillet, melt the butter in the olive oil. Season the hen pieces with salt and pepper and add half of them to the skillet. Cook over moderately high heat, turning, until browned all over, about 8 minutes; transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining hen pieces.

  2. Add the shallots to the skillet and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the cider, stock, Calvados and vinegar and simmer over moderately high heat, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Add the apples and heavy cream and bring to a simmer. Return the hens to the skillet and simmer over moderately low heat until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest piece registers 160°, about 10 minutes. Transfer the hens to a platter. Add the currants to the skillet and season the sauce with salt and pepper. Spoon the sauce over the hens and serve.

Contributed By Photo © Stephanie Meyer Published October 2010

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