Satsuma Glazed Game Hens

Merry Southern Christmas, from your Gulf Coast Galley Pirate!  As mentioned a couple of weeks back, Christmas (dinner, at least) came early on Upward Wing to keep the calendar balanced.  That left the holiday provisioner with the challenge of 70 degree weather, calling for a lighter take on the requisite holiday overdoing-it.  And so, a menu centered around Satsumas — the deep South’s answer to tangerines.  Another challenge: my galley oven won’t accommodate even the smallest of turkeys, or the length of a decent duck or goose.  Game hens it is!

A wonderful thing about serving game hens is that they come in “single-serving packages” — i.e. each person gets a bird and can yank off and eat or not eat whatever parts they like.  Even after luxuriously stuffing ourselves full of these little beauties, they still went into the stock pot with enough meat on them to make a delicious version of Pirate Caroline’s Turkey and Wild Rice Soup the following week.  Happiness is a wholly-consumed hen.

Satsuma Glazed Game Hens

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For Glaze:
2 cups freshly squeezed satsuma or orange juice
1/2 cup rum
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
4 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons cane syrup or light molasses
4 ounces tomato paste
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 tablespoon satsuma or orange zest
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

For Hens:
Four game hens of roughly same size
Sea salt and pepper
One satsuma or orange, quartered
Several sprigs of fresh herb like rosemary or oregano
Rice, to serve

By now you hopefully appreciate that we make ALL of our recipes in our 40′ sailboat galleys.  This means occasionally doing things differently than professional chef’s might recommend, but we’ve tested it for you and found each accommodation to be deliciously satisfactory (probably helps that everything tastes better on a boat).  In this case, I’m sure one generally uses a La Creuset pot or a bigger sheet pan for birds of this size, but this cake pan is the maximum dimensions of my oven, so snuggle up, birdies!  One advantage…I didn’t need to truss them up … their wings and legs aren’t going anywhere.  To prepare them, rinse briefly and dry well, inside and out, with paper towels.  Salt and pepper them inside and out as well.  I stuffed a quarter of a satsuma (or tangerine or orange) in each cavity, along with a healthy sprig of rosemary.

You may also want to foil the wing tips for presentation purposes — they WILL blacken and burn long before the birds are done (or require foil to stop the browning themselves).  Ultimately, I missed on that later foiling responsibility and ended up with some burned patches of skin — no matter, since everyone had more bird to choose from than they needed, and could avoid blackened skin if that’s not their thing.  Similarly, I don’t think anyone’s going to be relegated to gnawing on the wing tips for a little more sustenance.  But it’s Christmas … I took the time at this point to render things marginally more attractive.

To make the glaze, bring the juice and rum to a simmer over medium heat, and simmer until reduced by half, stirring occasionally.

Add the vinegar, corn syrup, Worcestershire, cane syrup, tomato paste and chicken stock and continue to simmer slowly until reduced again by a quarter or so. 

Mix the cornstarch with a  splash of water, then whisk this into the reduced sauce and simmer on low another 10 minutes or so to thicken slightly.  Remove from heat and stir in the zest.

Brush the birds liberally with the glaze and put them in a preheated 400 degree oven.

After 20 minutes, hit them with another round of glaze.

After another 15 minutes, glaze them again.  You can cover them loosely with foil if the skins are browning too fast.  Put them back in the oven for 45 minutes.

This is an optimal time to check on the sunset, and the Captain/Christmas light installation technician’s beverage needs.  Also, if you’re serving the birds with wild rice, start it now … it takes a while!

After 45 minutes, use an instant read thermometer to check the temperature — you are looking for 170 degrees in the thickest part of the breast. If you’re not there yet, give them a little more glaze and return to oven, tented with foil, for 10 more minutes at a time until you reach that temperature.

Let the birds rest for 10 minutes while you finish the rice and get plates ready.

Serve each bird on a bed of rice — we added a satsuma green tomato salad (recipe to come)

A truly Merry Christmas to all our friends, and fair winds and fabulous eats!

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Satsuma Glazed Game Hens


Course: Main Course
Servings: 4 people
Ingredients
  • 2 cups Satsuma, tangerine or orange juice
  • 1/2 cup rum (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons cane syrup or light molasses
  • 4 ounces tomato paste
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 tablespoon Satsuma, tangerine or orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon corn starch
  • 4 game hens
  • 1 whole Satsuma, tangerine or orange
  • 4 sprigs fresh herb like rosemary, oregano
Instructions
  1. To make glaze, bring juice and rum to a simmer and simmer until reduced by half. Add the vinegar, corn syrup, Worcestershire, cane syrup, tomato paste and stock and simmer until reduced by one quarter.  Combine cornstarch with a splash of water until smooth and whisk into glaze.  Simmer 10 more minutes.  Off heat, stir in zest

  2. To prepare hens, rinse inside and out and dry well with paper towels.  Salt and pepper inside and out, insert 1/4 Satsuma, tangerine or orange and sprig of herbs into cavity, and truss legs together with kitchen twine if desired.  Cover wing tips with foil.

  3. Glaze hens and cook in preheated 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Reglaze and return to oven for another 15 minutes.  Glaze again, and tent loosely with foil if skins are browning too fast; return to oven for 45 minutes.

  4. Check thickest part of breast with a meat thermometer; if not up to 170 degrees, glaze again and return to oven for 10 minutes at a time until temperature reached.  Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

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