Duxelles-Stuffed  Cornish Hen With Rataouille

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This recipe is inspired by one of my favorite dishes, ratatouille. This vegetable dish originates from Nice, and can be served hot or cold. Ratatouille features zucchini, tomatoes, onions, and eggplant, stewed or baked together. It is delicious freshly made, but even better if eaten the next day. The same is true of duxelles, which is a mixture of different types of minced mushrooms  and their stems, along with minced shallots  and onions (or both) that have been cooked ‘til greatly reduced and quite thick. This basic mixture is then used as a stuffing, gravy, or as a garnish.

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Ingredients

Ratatouille

  • ¼ cup of olive oil
  • 2 onions, cut in half and sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced thin
  • 1 large eggplant, cut into large cubes
  • 4 small yellow squash, cut lengthwise then sliced
  • 4 vine-ripened tomatoes, roughly diced
  • 1 cup fresh parsley leaves, minced
  • Leaves from 3 sprigs of fresh tarragon, minced
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, minced
  • 8 fresh sage leaves, minced
  • 1 ½ cups dry white wine (I prefer Chardonnay)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Duxelles

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 package crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, minced
  • 1 package small white button mushrooms, minced
  • 2 shallots (4 pieces), sliced very thinly
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Cornish Hens

  • 4 Cornish Hens (ensure they  are 1 - 1 ½ pounds, not larger)
  • ½ of the reserved duxelles mixture

Preparation

Ratatouille:

1. Prepare the eggplant by cutting  into cubes, then laying on  a cookie sheet. Sprinkle lightly  with salt and allow to sit for 30  minutes.

2. Using a large pot (6 quarts or bigger),  add your olive oil. When it  is hot, add the onions. When the  onions start to turn translucent  (5 to 7 minutes on medium-high  heat) add your garlic. When the  garlic starts to soften, lower your  flame to medium.

3. Add the eggplant, stirring it  into the rest of the ingredients.  Cover and let sweat for about  5 to 7 minutes or until it starts to  soften. Then add your zucchini  and squash, cover, and leave to  sit for 3 to 5 minutes, just enough  for it to start to soften.

4. Add your tomatoes, fresh  herbs, and white wine. Stir  gently to incorporate. Cover and turn flame to medium-low heat,  and let simmer for 30 minutes  or until all vegetables are tender  but not mushy. Add salt and  pepper (to taste) at this point.

5. Using a slotted spoon, transfer  ¾ of the ratatouille into a  separate pot to cool and reserve.  Refrigerate.

6. Using a stick (immersion)  blender, blend the remaining  liquid and ratatouille well. Cool  completely and reserve.

7. In 2 extra-strong, 2-gallon  Ziploc bags (double bag if need  be) add one half of the cooled  liquid from the ratatouille,  and 2 Cornish hens. Marinate  overnight.

Duxelles:

1. Heat the oil in a large sauté  pan, and when oil is hot, add  shallots. When the shallots become clear (5 minutes on high  heat), add the mushrooms.

2. Lower heat to medium-high  and cook the mushrooms down  for 20 to 25 minutes, until they are  well-browned and have shrunk  considerably.

3. Add the white wine, and cook  for 5 minutes longer to reduce.  Cool completely and reserve.

4. Refrigerate.

To Prepare:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Carefully separate skin from  breastbone using your fingers to  make a pocket of the skin.

3. Fill, but don’t overfill, the  pocket between skin and breast  with the duxelles mixture.

4. Cook breast-side down for  about 1 hour, or until thermometer inserted into thickest part of  thigh reads 180°F.

To Present:

1. Reheat the ratatouille and  duxelles. In the middle of the  plate, place a large spoonful of  ratatouille. Place Cornish hen,  breast-side down, in the middle  of the ratatouille, then garnish  with duxelles. For family-style  service, take a large serving  platter and spoon out the ratatouille,  then arrange the hens on  top. Then garnish with remaining  duxelles.