The only trick to preparing these small birds is to avoid overcooking them. They should cook only ten or fifteen minutes after browning or the breasts will be too dry. Amazing Chicken Recipes
Cut away the backs from the Cornish hens. Cut each hen into quarters. In a large pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over moderately high heat. Add the backs and cook until very brown, about 8 minutes. Discard all but a teaspoon of fat. Add the onion, carrot and celery and cook 3 minutes longer. Add the wine and simmer 2 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan to dislodge any brown bits. Add the stock. Bring to a boil and simmer until the stock has reduced to 2 cups. Strain the stock. Press the vegetables and bones firmly to get all the liquid. Set the stock aside.
Combine 1/2 cup of the flour, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Dredge each hen quarter in the seasoned flour. In a frying pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over moderately high heat. Add some of the Cornish hen quarters and cook until brown, about 4 minutes per side. Remove. Brown the remaining quarters.
In a large pot, heat the butter over moderate heat. Add the shallots and cook until beginning to turn golden, about 3 minutes. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the hens with any juice that has accumulated, the reserved stock and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer over moderate heat. Reduce the heat and cook, covered, at a bare simmer for 5 minutes. Add the asparagus and fresh peas, if using. Simmer until the hens are just done and the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes longer.
Add the frozen peas, if using, the cream, lemon zest, tarragon and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Bring back to a simmer and serve.
The creamy texture and taste of this stew and the flavor of asparagus both work well with a young, assertive bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from Bordeaux or the Loire Valley in France, or from New Zealand.