2 1 – 1 1/2 – pounds fresh or frozen Cornish game hens
2 slices bacon
1 cup coarsely chopped onion (1 large)
1 cup coarsely chopped celery (2 stalks)
1 cup coarsely chopped, unpeeled firm, tart apples (such as, Rome Beauty, Stayman Winesap, Granny Smith) (1 large)
2/3 cup chopped fresh cranberries
1 tablespoon snipped fresh sage leaves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup dry bread cubes (1 1/2 slices bread)
1 tablespoon water, apple juice or chicken broth
Olive oil or vegetable oil
Sea salt or kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
Cider-Sage Sauce (recipe follows)
Apple slices (optional)
Lemon wedges (optional)
Thaw hens, if frozen. Use kitchen shears or a long, heavy knife to cut hen in half lengthwise. Cut through the breast bone, just off center. If you like, cut on each side of the backbone to completely remove the backbone; discard backbone. If you like, remove and discard as much skin as you can from the hen halves. Set hens aside.
For stuffing: In a medium skillet, cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon and drain on paper towels. Crumble bacon and set aside. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings in skillet. Cook onion and celery in reserved bacon drippings over medium heat until onion is tender. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbled bacon, apples, cranberries, sage, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and cinnamon. Stir in bread cubes. Drizzle just enough of the water over bread mixture to moisten, tossing lightly until mixed.
Spoon stuffing into four mounds on the bottom of a greased 13x9x2-inch (3-quart) baking dish. Place hen halves, cut side down, over the stuffing mounds. Brush hens with oil and lemon juice. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Roast, uncovered, in a 375 degrees oven for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the Cider-Sage Sauce.
Brush with some of the Cider-Sage Sauce, then roast, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes more or until hens are tender and no longer pink and an instant-read thermometer registers 170 degrees in breast and 180 degrees in thigh (the thermometer should not touch bone), brushing hens once or twice with more the sauce.
Remove hens from oven. Let stand, loosely covered, for 10 minutes before serving. Using a wide spatula, transfer hens with stuffing to dinner plates. If you like, garnish dinner plates with sliced apples and lemon wedges. Heat remaining sauce until bubbly and pass at the table.
Apple Cider-Sage Sauce: In a small saucepan, stir together 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir in 1 cup fresh apple cider or apple juice, 1 1/2 teaspoon snipped fresh sage leaves and 1 clove garlic, minced. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon boiled cider (purchase in specialty stores or see recipe on midwestliving.com), applejack, apple brandy or brandy. Makes about 1 cup sauce.
Midwest Living, October 2012, page 98