Cornish Game Hens Stuffed with Savory Sausage Bread Pudding

2011-11-26T07:00:00Z 2014-09-16T13:00:30Z Cornish Game Hens Stuffed with Savory Sausage Bread PuddingStory and recipe by Lucy Schnuck
Photography by Jennifer Silverberg
Feast Magazine | Inspired Local Food Culture/Midwest

Bread pudding isn't always a sticky-sweet dessert. This savory version is delicious on its own or used as a stuffing. Rich, salty pork pairs well with dark, jammy fruits, such as figs. The salty-sweet combination creates a satisfyingly flavorful winter dish.

Cornish Game Hens Stuffed with Savory Sausage Bread Pudding

Serves | 4 |

  • 2 Cornish game hens
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ lb sweet Italian sausage
  • ½ lb shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 6 dried figs, diced
  • 4 Tbsp fig jam, divided
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ loaf challah, cubed
  • 4 Tbsp butter, divided
  • 2 figs, quartered

| Preparation | Preheat oven to 400ºF. Pat hens dry with a paper towel. Season inside and out with salt and pepper.

In a large sauté pan, cook sausage over medium heat until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Increase heat to medium-high. When oil from sausage is smoking slightly, add mushrooms and sauté until browned. Reduce heat to medium. Add the onion and shallot and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant; then add the dried figs. Season with salt and pepper. Return the sausage to the mix and remove from heat. Allow to cool slightly and stir in 2 Tbsp fig jam.

In a large bowl, combine the milk and eggs. Add the cubed challah and the sausage mixture. Mix well. Fill the hens' cavities with the bread pudding and truss each hen's legs. Rub each hen with 1 Tbsp butter and place on a roasting pan. Bake until the internal temperature of the birds reaches 165ºF. Remove hens from the oven and place on a platter to rest. Place the roasting pan on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Add remaining fig jam to the pan drippings and stir well. Reduce the heat to medium and add remaining butter, stirring constantly. Add figs to the pan and cook for another minute, stirring to coat them with sauce. Cut birds in half and serve with pan sauce.

CHEF'S TIPS

Tasteful timing. When sautéing vegetables, be sure to add the garlic in the last few minutes of cooking and no earlier. Since garlic is high in sugar, it will burn easily if left in the pan too long, which will ruin the flavors of the dish.

Make use of the leftovers. Bake remaining bread pudding in a casserole dish at 325ºF for 30 minutes or until set. Serve as a side to this dish or alongside baked chicken or turkey cutlets with greens later in the week.

A better bread. Challah is a great choice for bread pudding. Its spongy and airy construction easily soaks up the eggs and milk, so the pudding is moist and tender. It is similar to brioche, which can also be used in this recipe.

Be picky about your figs. There are many varieties of figs. The most common in our area is the Mission fig, named for the Spanish Franciscans who came to California to establish mission churches. When picking out fresh Mission figs, look for dark-purple skin and relatively firm flesh. Figs are highly perishable, so they need to be used as soon as possible after you buy them. If you have a hard time finding fresh figs, dried figs can be substituted. Dry figs are a bit stickier and denser, but they still have that true fig flavor.


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