Pan-Roasted Cornish Hens with Calvados and Apples
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