Cornish Game Hen with Asparagus and Morels
Cornish hens are excellent for pan roasting because they're so small. They typically go well with sauces, and are often glazed with a reduced orange sauce, complete with orange zest and Cointreau. In this case we're using a dusky, earthy morel sauce that has an exquisite mild flavor. My favorite dish to serve with Cornish hens is wild rice - the flavor blends perfectly with the hens and the texture is excellent. If you do decide on wild rice, try mixing it with thinly sliced water chestnuts.
Preheat the oven to about 400 degrees and rinse the hens under cold water. Pat dry. Remove the backbone of the hens by placing them, one at a time, on a cutting board, breast-side down. Using a sharp pair of kitchen shears, cut down either side of the backbone and remove it. Flatten the hen with by tapping it with the side of a large knife. Continue pressing until the cartilage between the breast meat splits. Trim off about ½ inch of the leg tips.
Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and add a half-teaspoon of olive oil. Season the hens with the salt and pepper, then place a hen, skin side down, into the pan. Cook until the skin begins to brown, about 5 to 6 minutes.
Transfer the pan to the oven to cook until the skin is very crisp, which should take approximately 15 minutes. Transfer the hen to a plat and set it aside for the time being. Repeat this process until all the hens are cooked. When all of them have been browned, place them together in the pan, skin side up, and return them to the oven to finish cooking. This should take about 15-20 minutes, or until the juices run clear.
Turn the oven off, remove the hens to a clean plate and keep them warm.
Reheat the pan with any remaining oil over medium heat. Add the asparagus and shallots and cook, stirring constantly. When the asparagus is bright green and the shallots have wilted, add the morels and cook until they're soft and tender, about another one or two minutes.
Add the wine to the pan and use a wooden spoon or spatula to stir in browned bits of vegetable that may be clinging to the pan. Add the broth and any juices that may have collected from the hens. Simmer for about 3 minutes, swirl in the butter and chives, and check the seasoning for salt and pepper.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer the morels and asparagus to the bottom of a warmed serving dish. Place the hens over the vegetables and spoon the sauce over the top.