This is perhaps the most festive and delicious meal I’ve made this spring so far: tender and juicy poussin with ethereal hint of lemon, cranberries and a touch of bacon smokiness on a bed of mixed potatoes roasted in the bird juices and flavored with mint – Oh là là! And as much as the classic Engagement Chicken can allure you or your significant one, I guarantee you – this one is better (tested on family and friends). The Glamor’s fairy tale of irresistible roast chicken stuffed with lemons insists that the dish would put a spell on the partner and he/she would begin to think of marriage. While the question still lingers about how a simple roast chicken can do such a miracle to hundreds of readers and, especially, to Howard Stern and his wife to be, I do believe that perfectly executed recipe of a roast chicken (Cornish hen in this case) served with a side of herbed root veggies and a glass of white Regaleali can be a bliss and will do you nothing but good.
In Julia Child’s words: ‘ You can always judge the quality of a cook or a restaurant by its roast chicken…’. Today, I would add: fresh, free-range chicken – and, Yes, that would be step number one towards a success roast chicken story. Speaking of, I much prefer the Cornish hen (also called poussin or spring chicken) to regular chicken for its delicate and savory flesh. Last week-end I’ve googled a nice spot called Ferme D’Amours within the close reach from Montreal, where you can buy these birds of a top quality for less (around $6.00 each) than the imported ones in the grocery stores. Thirty minutes later, we were there in countryside abandon in the midst of the fertile farm fields of Monteregie with a steady hum drum of the tractors at a distance. The draft roasting project was already on my mind once we saw the directions to the farm and then there it was, the wowmoment discovering the treasures of Ferme D’Amours boutique: from Cornish hen and organic eggs to all parts of free-range chicken, as well as locally produced lamb, veal and sausages… my kind of heaven.
We bought a bunch of Cornish chicken among other things and, boy did I have fun with them! First I made an Asian style healing soup (which I have to absolutely share with you one day), then a great Jamaican Jerk on a BBQ…
…and, finally, this dish.
For the roast spring chicken, when I was sprinkling the little hens with salt and pepper and rubbing the birds with olive oil and lemon juice, the idea of bacon bites for smokiness and cranberries for an extra boon of flavor came to my head, so I spread some bacon bits with scallions in a roasting pan, placed the seasoned chicken halves on top of them, added a handful of frozen cranberries and slid them into the oven warmed up to 450F. Once you turn the chicken 15 minutes later, give it a splash of wine. At the same time if wish be spread some cubed/sliced root veggies of your choice (I chose regular and sweet potatoes, but any other root veggies would be great) around the chicken and cover the pan with foil for the next 15 minutes, then remove it, add another handful of cranberries and some mint leaves and roast for another 15 minutes. Adding the mint in the process gives that unforgettable Middle Eastern touch of freshness to the roast.
While cooking, I was beaming and glowing because the smell of the dish would stream a message of happiness to my nose way before it was ready. And when taking the first bite of it I soon realized that this was a dish I wanted to stash among the happy reaches of my gastronomic mind forever.
CRANBERRY LEMON ROAST CORNISH HEN WITH MINTED ROOT VEGGIES