Spring Game Hens In Lemon and Thyme, With Duck Fat Fried Potato Haystacks and Shiitake Cream Puree
2 small Cornish game hens (these are slightly under 1 lb each)
1 large shallot
3 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
8 ounces shitake mushrooms
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
3 large russet potatoes
1 cup duck fat
cracked black pepper
fresh alfalfa sprouts
These little babies were free-range, vegetable fed, naturally raised chickadees, and I did love them. Don’t know if they were male or female, but I stripped them mercilessly of their plastic modesty wrappers, and hosed ‘em down like Rambo at the Hope lock-up.
They’re really just little chickens, but their meat under the skin is a wee bit purple, hinting at the richness to come after roasting. I pat them both dry with paper towels…
Shove a wedge of lemon and a few sprigs of thyme up each well-salted and well-peppered cavity…
Then I tie ‘em both up good, fold their wings down under ‘em, douse them with EVOO, and scatter them with sea salt and cracked black pepper. I then place my dish into a 375 degree oven, and roast for the next hour.
My “yard” was going to be composed of a rich mushroom cream sauce. I purchased some beautiful shitake mushrooms, and along with some thyme, shallot, and garlic I had all the earthiness I needed.
These are just beautiful — meaty, firm-fleshed, and hearty.
I start by sweating my diced shallots and mince garlic in EVOO over medium heat, then I add a few sprigs of thyme before…
Throwing in my mushrooms, a bay leaf, and my chicken stock. I cover this, and set to simmer until the mushrooms are softened — about 30 minutes. Right before service, I’m going to remove the stems and bay leaf from the mix, move everything to a deep sided saucepan, then burr it with my hand-blender. I’ll put it back on medium heat, add my heavy cream, whisk it together once again until it reaches a thick, smooth consistency.
But for now, I’ve trimmed my potatoes into rough rectangles, and, using the largest setting on my mandoline, I slice them into thick sheets…
Then I cut them into thin strips. I float these in water, until everything is cut, and then I rinse everything in cold water before…
I spread them out on paper towels and pat them to dry as much as possible.
I roasted a duck a few weeks ago (and it was good), and I preserved the rendered fat which, I admit, has been burning a hole in my fridge (to co-opt the phrase). I thought the duck fat would add the je ne sais quoi my fries needed to elevate them above the norm. I heat the fat to very high — almost smoking — before I slide my spuds into the sizzling bath…
Bubble bubble toil and quack – my spud spears sizzle spectacularly in their searing hot-tub of duck fat. I cook each batch until crispy, lift them with a mesh screen to drain, then toss them with sea salt and set on paper towels until they’re all fried up.
I trim (almost all) the butcher’s string from my bird, and let it rest for a few moments before moving it to my plate which is layered with the piping hot, creamy mushroom base. I stack my fries alongside, and create a nest of alfalfa sprouts dressed with EVOO, sea salt, and a lemon wedge. Using a deep tablespoon, I drizzle some of the hen drippings over my bird right before I set her in front of Clayton’s ravenous visage, as he’s poised with fork and knife, his napkin tucked into place, and his mouth open and salivating. Fork and knife? Totally unnecessary! With a wee twist of forefinger and thumb, each leg slides out of its boney sheath, the quivering, juicy fowl flesh steaming and scented of lemon and thyme. The skin is crispy and delicious, and each forkful is slat