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Nov 29, 2016
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WINE WITH…Spatchcocked Cornish Hens and Bread Salad

We have been into spatchcocked birds recently. If you haven’t heard of spatchcocking, it’s the culinary term for butterflying a bird (a game bird, chicken or turkey) before roasting or grilling it. We had a spatchocked turkey at Thanksgiving. It cooked in half the time a regular one would take, and had browner, crisper skin to boot. Cornish game hens lend themselves particularly well to spatchcocking, and this is a preparation we think you will like as much as we do.

Spatchcocked Cornish Hens and Bread Salad

Serves 2

For the Hens:

2 Cornish game hens
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon thyme
freshly ground pepper

For the Salad:

1 tablespoon raisins or currants
2 tablespoons brandy or white wine
2 thick slices slightly stale French or Italian-style white bread, preferably not sourdough̊
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
About 4 cups arugula or other dark salad greens such as romaine, watercress or frisée, or a mixture of any or all

Preheat the oven to 450°.

There are plenty of YouTube videos demonstrating how to spatchcock a bird, but here are a few simple directions. Place the hen on a stable surface and cut down each side of its backbone, using sharp kitchen shears or sturdy scissors. (Discard the backbone or save it for making stock). Open the hen like a book, grabbing a side of the breast in each hand and push-pulling it down until you hear the bones crack a little. With a sharp pairing knife cut out the breastbone, a soft triangular bone located between the two legs (once you’ve cut around it use your fingers to pull it out).

Mix together the olive oil, salt, paprika, thyme and pepper, and rub the mixture all over the spatchcocked birds. Place them in a small roasting pan, and roast until they are cooked through and nicely browned, about 30-40 minutes (turn the heat up to 475° for the last 10 minutes or so if they do not seem to be browning enough).

Meanwhile, put the raisins and brandy or wine in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and reserve the raisins and cooking liquid. Cut the bottom crust off the bread slices and trim a little off the top crust as well. Brush both sides of the bread with olive oil, place the slices on a sheet of foil and pop them into a toaster oven or in the oven with the hens. Toast them for a couple of minutes, or until they have just begun to color. When they are cool enough to handle, tear them into rough bite-size pieces (about 2-3 inches).

Whisk together all the ingredients for the salad (except the greens) including the raisins and the brandy. When you are ready to serve the dish, pour the dressing over the salad greens, add the chunks of bread, and toss to mix everything thoroughly together. Divide the salad between two serving plates and nestle the hens on top of it.

* * *

The same types of wine that you might choose to accompany roast chicken--light reds and vibrant whites--will work well with this dish. Cornish hens are a bit more deeply flavored than regular chicken, and the skin will be darker and crisper, but heavier wines likely will prove disappointing because obtrusive. Let the dish sing by choosing a wine that will complement it in both texture and flavor.

* * *

Questions or comments? Contact us at Talkofthevine@gmail.com

More recipes and wine pairings:    Wine With...  
Connect  on Twitter:   @M_L_Thomas  and  @Wine_With_


Approx. Price


Domaine Michel Briday, Rully (France) 1er Cru “Le Pucelle” 2012

(Imported by Vineyard Brands)


A tasty white Burgundy, with a distinct streak of minerality undergirding its autumnal fruit flavors, this Rully tastes vivacious. It will hold its own with the tangy bread salad as well as the poultry.

Hubert Brochard, Sancerre (France) Non-Filtré 2014

(Imported by the Country Vintner)


Lighter in body than the other wines we are recommending, this Sancerre tastes so riveting that you simply can’t ignore it, no matter that the hens are significantly richer.

Domaine de la Grand Cour, Fleurie (France)

“Clos de la Grand Cour” 2015

(Imported by Polaner Selections)


A delicious cru Beaujolais, with cherry-scented fruit and an earthy undertone that will complement the game hens. Gentle on the palate but packed full of flavor, this wine made for a super match.

MacMurray Estate Vineyards, Central Coast (California) Pinot Noir



Fruit-driven, with cherry and red berry flavors, this wine tastes sumptuous and feels supple when you drink it. Particularly for fans of Pinot Noir with a sun-drenched California personality, it is a fine value.

Martin Ray, Russian River Valley (California) Rosé of Pinot Noir



Bright and very flavorful, with strawberry fruit flavors that linger past the last sip, this rosé proved very satisfying. It gave the dish a lift as it imparted a sense of freshness to the match.