Served in the rustic northern-Thai style with the aromatics left in, this spicy, gingery stew makes a fantastic main course or starter. It's also believed to boost energy. For an even healthier version, remove the skin from the Cornish hens before searing.
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1 tablespoon dried green peppercorns
Two 1 1/2-pound Cornish hens
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
5 dried red chiles
4 medium shallots, smashed and peeled
3 large garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
One 3-inch piece of fresh ginger or galangal, thinly sliced
2 lemongrass stalks, tender inner white bulb only, cut into 3-inch strips and smashed
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 quart water
2 large kohlrabi or turnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
2 scallions, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
How to Make It
In a skillet, toast the green peppercorns over moderately high heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a spice grinder and let cool completely; coarsely grind.
Using poultry shears, remove the backbones and wingtips from the hens and reserve for another use. Remove the legs and separate them into drumsticks and thighs. Remove the whole breasts on the bone and split each breast down the center. (A butcher can do this for you.)
Season the hen pieces with salt and black pepper. In a large pot, heat the oil until shimmering. Add half of the hen pieces and cook over high heat, turning once, until browned, about 4 minutes; transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining hen pieces.
Add the chiles, shallots, garlic, ginger, lemongrass and turmeric to the pot and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the water and kohlrabi. Return the browned hen pieces to the pot and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until the breast meat is just cooked through, 15 minutes. Transfer the breast pieces to a plate and cover. Simmer the stew until the legs and thighs are just cooked through, 10 minutes longer.
Return the breast pieces to the stew and reheat. Stir in the ground green peppercorns, fish sauce, scallions, lime zest and cilantro. Ladle the stew into bowls and serve.
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