Cornish Game Hens with Wild Mushrooms, Chestnuts & Bacon
In the autumn, when the weather cools and a sharp nip is in the air, there's nothing more satisfying than deliciously old-fashioned comfort food. This updated classic will fill the whole house with a rich, mouth-watering aroma as it gently warms the kitchen.
Who cares if the leaves are falling? The earthiness of wild mushrooms, the mild sweetness of chestnuts and the savory flavor of braised game hens remind us that fall is the season when the summer's bounty is ready to enjoy with friends and family.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Season the game hens with salt & pepper. Over medium heat, melt the butter in a heavy lidded oven-safe pot or casserole large enough to hold both birds. Brown the hens on all sides and remove them to a large dish. Pour off the excess fat from the cooking pot. Return the pot to the heat and add the madeira. Stir with a spoon, scraping up the bits from the bottom. Pour the juices over the hens and set them aside.
Wipe the bottom of the pot, return to medium heat and add the bacon. Cook the bacon until lightly browned. Spoon off the excess fat and add the onions and celery. Cook until the vegetables begin to soften slightly. Stir in the flour thoroughly and remove from the heat.
Stir in the hot chicken stock gradually until it is completely combined with the flour. Add the chestnuts, mushrooms, game hens and their juices. Return to a gentle simmer, then cover tightly and place in the preheated oven for about one hour, or until the game hens are tender and the leg joint moves easily.
Lift the game hens, chestnuts, mushrooms and vegetables from the pot and transfer to a warm serving plate. On the stovetop, bring the sauce back to a boil, add the lemon juice, and season to taste with salt & pepper.
Pour the sauce into a sauce boat or pitcher and serve at the table with the game hens.