I touch the oven with the same trepidation as a cat would touch cold water. The first time I had to “operate” an oven I picked up the hot Pyrex pan without mittens, and burnt my palms pretty bad (But I didn’t drop the dish.) Well, I cannot be blamed completely for it. I grew up in a culture where there is a very limited concept of oven cooking. Most food is steamed, boiled, braised, grilled or fried.
I have been learning the nuances of baking after I moved to the US in late 2006. I have done some small baking over time, and I have enjoyed the process. One, because of the consistent and precise heat which I like very much, and second the ingredients retain their shape and texture after cooking. Much to my pleasure I discovered that rice cooks well and looks great after cooking in the oven. The other big plus factor for me is that I can stick the dish into the oven and concentrate on my work (research and photo editing) and not worry about coagulated ingredients and burnt pots.
So, I decided yesterday to cook my first bird dish in the oven…yes the first one!!!
I baked two Cornish hens, and of course I had to give some Indian twist to it. So I made green masala to go along with the baked hens. Much to my relief and pleasure the hens came out good and were moist, and the fresh and spicy sauce complemented the chicken. But I guess the heavy bearing of baking my first dish took the toll on me, and I did a lousy plating and also forgot to drizzle the sauce on the hens.
2 Cornish hens
For stuffing each bird –
1. 2-3 spliced cloves of garlic
2. 1 teaspoon chopped ginger
3. handful of sliced scallions
4. 2 sprig fresh rosemary
5. Crushed black pepper
For Green Masala
1. 1/2 cup of cilantro leaves including little bit of the stems
2. 3-4 sprigs of fresh mint
3. 1 1/2 teaspoon chopped ginger
4. 2-3 cloves of garlic
5. 4-5 Thai green chillies
6. One medium sized onion
7. 3-4 crushed green cardamom pods
8. 3-4 curry leaves
9. 1 teaspoon rice vinger
10. 1-2 crushed cloves
11. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
Set the oven to 350 F.
Clean and rub black pepper and salt under the skin, and the cavities of the chicken (Separate the skin by gently working your fingers between the skin and the meat. You may not be able to separate everything, but do as much as you can.) Stick one rosemary sprig under the skin near the breast and one inside the cavity. Stuff the chicken with garlic, ginger and scallions and place in the oven for one hour, baste as needed.
I made the green masala because the rich, fresh and earthy sauce complemented the meat. To make the sauce place all the ingredients in a blender and process till you get a smooth paste. Heat about 1 tablespoon of oil in a pan and transfer the paste into the pan. Using a non-stick pan would be best for this process unless you want to add lot of oil. Lower to minimal heat and simmer till all the water evaporates and you get a really smooth green sauce (If you have extra sauce, you can refrigerate in a clean bottle and use over the next few days).
After the hens are done remove them from the oven. Siphon off about 3-5 tablespoons of drippings and fat from the baking dish and add to the green masala sauce. Simmer for another 3-4 minutes on low heat everything mixes well.
Drizzle the sauce over the hens. Garnish and serve.
Though this was my first baked meat dish, it was pretty moist and well appreciated by my wife and family friends with whom we stay with.