Dad turned 88. We had a special family celebration and dinner.
24 cherry tomatoes (about 1-inch in diameter)
16 thin slices bacon, cooked until crisp, blotted, crumbled (I used the Hormel already-cooked/crumbled bacon in a bag from Costco; about 1/4 c.).
1/4 cup finely diced iceberg lettuce
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
2 tablespoons minced green onion
Use a sharp knife (serrated is best) to cut a thin top from each tomato, just enough to remove the stem. Use a tomato shark (a small, round spoon-like tool with serrated edge) or the small end of a melon baller to remove and discard the seeds, leaving the shell intact. (I purchased golfball-sized tomatoes on the vine, and used a grapefruit spoon to hollow them out. Easy and still bite sized).
Mix the crumbled bacon, lettuce, mayonnaise, and green onion in a bowl. (This can be made several hours ahead and refrigerated.)
To assemble, place the tomatoes, cut side up, on a work surface. (To keep tomatoes stable, use a sharp knife to cut a small slice off the bottom, taking care not to cut through tomato). Fill each tomato with about 1/2 - 1 teaspoon (depending upon the size of the tomato) of the bacon mixture until just nicely mounded, using a small espresso or measuring spoon or pastry bag fitted with plain wide tip. (because of the size of the tomatoes, I could use an espresso spoon to fill them. Easy!) Serve chilled.
Broiled Asparagus with Reduced Balsamic Vinaigrette and Peccorino Romano
(Note: broil the asparagus after the hens have been roasted and are resting)The balsamic glaze will keep in the refrigerator for a week.
2 pounds thin asparagus spears (2 bunches), tough ends trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper
Reduced Balsamic Vinaigrette and Peccorino
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup shaved Peccorino Romano cheese
Bring the vinegar to a boil in an 8-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer slowly until the vinegar is syrupy and reduced to 1/4 cup, 15 to 20 minutes. (You can make this the night before or up to a week before. Just watch it carefully, because if overcooked the balsamic vinegar will harden into a sticky mass.)
Adjust oven rack to uppermost position and heat broiler (about 4 inches from the heating element). Toss asparagus with oil and salt and pepper, then lay spears in single layer on heavy rimmed baking sheet. Broil, shaking the pan halfway through to turn spears, until asparagus are tender and lightly browned, 6 to 10 minutes. Arrange the broiled asparagus on a serving platter. Drizzle the balsamic glaze and olive oil over the asparagus. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and serve immediately.
Cornish Hens with Southern Dressing & Rice Pilaf
2 c. Kosher salt
5 quarts cold water
1/4 c. raisins
1/2 c. sauterne
1 c. butter - divided
1 1/4 c. chopped onions - divided
2 c. crumbled cornbread
1 tsp. salt
Pepper to taste
1/4 tsp. poultry seasoning
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 c. chopped pecans, lightly toasted
4 Cornish game hens, all the same size - approximately 1 1/2 pounds each (To serve 6, just get 2 more hens. There is enough dressing/stuffing to stuff 6 hens. If you want to serve only 4, put the leftover dressing in a pan, cover with foil and bake at 350* Farenheit for 1/2 hour. Dressing is also good with pork chops :p).
1 c. wild and brown rice
1 lb. sliced fresh mushrooms, wild or portobello preferred
Night before:Soak raisins in sauterne overnight.
Approximately 3 1/2 hours before you want to cook the hens, dissolve the Kosher salt in the water. Brine the birds in the refrigerator breast-side-down for 3 hours. Remove, rinse well and pat dry.
Stuffing: Melt 1/4 cup butter in saucepan; add 1/4 cup onions and sauté stirring constantly, until tender. Place crumbled cornbread into large mixing bowl. Add sautéed onions, raisin mixture, salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, eggs and pecans. Mix well.
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400F (205C). Brush cavities of Cornish hens with melted butter. Stuff the hens with cornbread dressing. Spoon approximately 1/2 cup stuffing into cavity of each hen; tie its legs together with 6-inch piece of cotton kitchen twine. Leaving as much space as possible between each bird, arrange them breast side down and wings facing out, on large (at least 19 x 13-inch) wire rack, set over equally large roasting or jelly-roll pan. Brush with melted butter. Roast until backs are golden brown, about 25 minutes.
Remove pan from oven, brush bird backs with melted butter, turn hens breast side up and wings facing out, and brush breast and leg area with additional melted butter.
Return pan to oven, add 1 cup water to the bottom of the pan, roast until meat thermometer inserted into the stuffed cavity registers about 150F (65C), about 15 to 20 minutes longer.
Remove pan from oven again, brush birds with melted butter, return pan to oven, add another 1/2 cup water to pan and increase oven temperature to 450F (230C). Roast until birds are spotty brown and cavity registers 160F (70C), 5 to 10 minutes longer, depending on bird size and your oven. Remove birds from oven and rest for 10 minutes. (I save the pan drippings in a container in the freezer for a future soup or sauce base)
Wild and brown rice take longer to cook than white rice. About 20 - 25 minutes before you begin roasting the hens, begin the pilaf: Wash and drain rice. Cook. This will take about an hour. Just before rice has finished cooking, and in another pan, sauté remaining onions in 1/4 cup butter until tender, stirring constantly. Sauté mushrooms in remaining 1/2 cup butter for 5 minutes. When rice has finished cooking, stir into rice mixture and keep warm. Serve with Cornish hens.