This recipe is adapted from an earlier posting “Quail in Rose Petal Sauce” It is an absolute delicacy, revealing flavors you may never have experienced before. In this recipe, the combination of the anise, roses, and chestnuts alone is sufficient to offer this dish absolute distinction. I added my own twist with the addition of dried hibiscus flowers and some left over blood orange syrup from another recipe.
I could not find any fresh quail, so I opted for Cornish game hens, one is a perfect serving for two if you like to share. I used the spatchcock technique.
A spatchcock is a historical term for a culled immature male chicken, but increasingly denotes a preparation technique. The spatchcock, also known as “spattlecock”, is poultry or game that has been prepared for roasting or grilling by removing the backbone, and sometimes the sternum of the bird and flattening it out before cooking. The preparation of a bird in such a manner for cooking may also be known as butterflying the bird. The term “spatchcock” is used when the backbone is removed, whether or not the sternum is removed. Removing the sternum allows the bird to be flattened more fully.
Spatchcocking a chicken allows the bird to be flattened allowing the meat to cook more quickly and thoroughly. Don’t be intimidated by the name. There are several on-line tutorials giving you a this step-by-step guide to help you master this kitchen skill and have any type of poultry roasting in no time.
For the Cornish Hens:
4 Cornish game hens
1/2 Tablespoon dried thyme
1/2 dried sage
8-10 sprigs fresh marjoram sprigs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons olive oil
For the Hibiscus Rose Petal Sauce:
10-12 fresh chestnuts
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced fine
1 teaspoon ground anise seeds or whole star of anise
10 edible roses with slightly open blooms, petals only,
10 dried hibiscus flowers
2 plums, peeled, pitted and chopped, or raspberries
1 cup chicken stock
2 Tablespoons fine quality honey
1/4 cup blood orange syrup (optional)
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
For the Cornish Hens:
Preheat the oven to 375 ° F.
Using a pair of good kitchen shears, take the Cornish game hens and cut alongside the backbone (from tail to neck). In a small bowl, mix together the thyme, sage, salt and pepper. Rub the oil all over the hen Rub the herb mixture all over the hen. Scatter the marjoram sprigs all over the bottom of a baking dish. Place the seasoned hen, skin up, on top of the marjoram sprigs. Wrap foil around the wingtips. Roast for about 45 minutes or until the leg bone feels loose when you tug on it.
For the Rose Petal Sauce:
Using a sharp paring knife slit an “X” into the flat side of the chestnuts. Roast in the oven for about 15 minutes.
Using a large saucepan, bring a quart of water to a boil and drop in the chestnuts. Boil, uncovered, for about 20 minutes and drain. Set aside to cool. When they’re cool enough to handle, peel the shells and the thin, papery “pellicle” away from the “meat” of the chestnut. Put them aside.
Melt the butter in a skillet, using it to sauté the garlic and anise seed until they are lightly browned. Add the hibiscus and rose petals and chopped plum and continue sautéing for a minute or two.
Place in a blender the petal mixture with honey, salt, pepper, and the cooked chestnuts. Puree in the blender while slowly adding 1 cup of chicken stock.
Strain the puree into a skillet, add the blood orange syrup (if using) and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes, stirring constantly.
Reheat the sauce. Add the hens to the sauce, making sure they are all covered completely. Cook and stir for about three minutes.
Serve with a plain white rice to absorb the fragrant sauce, if desired.