I have started my pre-Thanksgiving march now, trying to give you a bevy of options for the coming holiday. Some people, and I’m not naming names, don’t like turkey. And some people have long, long Thanksgiving holidays extending through the weekend. By Sunday, the leftovers are gone and you want something refreshing. Here’s an idea from 10 years ago that still resonates. It just happens to be Concord grape season, too. What a coincidence!
If you ask me what season of the year I prefer, I’ll answer winter, spring, summer and autumn. I love them all and, with a house in the Catskills, I do experience them all. Snowshoes, daffodils, a summer thunderstorm, and the scents of falling leaves.
Equality aside, autumn has the edge for me. It’s the total sensory experience: the colors, the scents, the richness of that final bounty at the farmers markets. You see stack after stack of wonderful produce. Yet it only takes a little imagination to look ahead three months and imagine the stillness of icicles on a blue-white winter day.
I’m fascinated by Concord grapes, which appear only for a short time and carry the impact of shotgun. Each bite is burst. So I began to wonder, what goes with Concord grapes? I consulted The Flavor Thesaurus, among other references, to see what flavor combinations work. Surprise, there is a section for grapes, but not for Concord grapes.
In fact, laughingly, there is just a quote from Jean Georges saying that he finds Concord grapes so special he won’t combine them with anything. He’ll make sorbet, but he cannot imagine mixing that Concord flavor with others.
What to do? I went to the website for the Concord Grape Association and looked at their recipes. I say this with charity. The Association is pushing grapes, not recipes. So the sundae recipe or the idea to combine grape juice into a package of white cake mix, well, I was not inspired.
But, they do have one recipe for Cornish game hens with Concord grape sauce that has appeal. The recipe is shown below. No, Suzen and I have not tried this yet, but on this coming fall weekend, I’m hopeful. The recipe for the game hens is fairly standard and will give you a lovely rice stuffing, complete with bamboo shoots. Ah, there is a difference here: the roasting hens are basted with grape juice
And then there’s the sauce, made with Concord grape jelly. The original recipe called for using beef gravy, which I think would dominate the sauce. Instead, I’m suggesting you use chicken stock which, while flavorful, will allow the grape jelly flavor to fully appear and not be overpowered by that often none-too-delicate beef tang.
I will keep searching for Concord grape recipes. If you have a favorite, please send it to me. Time is short and winter approaches. Now, just where did I put those snowshoes?
Stuffed Cornish Game Hens with Concord Grape Sauce
Yield: 6 servings
- 6 Cornish game hens, thawed if purchased frozen
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons butter for sautéing
- Game hen livers
- 2 tablespoons chopped onions
- ¼ teaspoon poultry seasoning
- 1 tablespoon brandy or sherry
- ¼ cup chopped bamboo shoots
- 1 cup raw wild rice mix, or 3 cups cooks
- ¼ cup chopped onions
- 6 tablespoons melted butter for basting
- ¼ cup dry white whine
- ¼ cup 100% Concord grape juice
- ¼ cup Concord grape jelly
- 1 ½ cups canned chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon curry powder [optional]
Remove giblets and set aside game hen lives. Sprinkle game hens inside and out with salt and pepper.
Heat butter and sauté game hen livers until livers are cooked. Chop livers with onion. Stir in poultry seasoning, brandy, bamboo shoots.
Cook wild rice mix according to package direction until tender. Stir ½ of the rice into the liver mixture. Use mixture to stuff game hens. Sew or skewer game hen openings.
Place hens side by side in a foil lined baking pan. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with chopped onion. Roast in a preheated moderate oven [350°F] for 30 minutes.
During those first 30 minutes, prepare a basting mixture. Mix the dry white wine and 100% grape juice. While roasting the hens for another 30 to 40 minutes, spoon the basting liquid over the game hens every 10 minutes. Remove the game hens from the oven when tender, place on a serving platter, and keep warm while making the Concord grape sauce.
Pour the roasting pan juices into a sauce pan. Stir in the Concord grape jelly, chicken stock, lemon juice and curry powder. Simmer until bubbly.
Spoon sauce over game hens and surround with remaining wild rice.
Source: original recipe from the Concord Grape Association; modified by Brian O’Rourke
Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 18-55MM lens, F/4.0, 1/40th second, ISO 160.