Jerk Seasoned Cornish Hens With Mushroom Wild Rice Stuffing

I always find it better to adapt what my conscience tells me as goodness in a culture.  It’s always good to understand the kernel meaning and uphold the spirit of anything and everything you celebrate these days.  Thanksgiving is not merely a get together of family and friends and having a feast.  Traditionally Thanksgiving was celebrated as an occasion of special thanksgiving for the harvests with thanks and prayers among several religions.  It’s celebrated in different ways in different cultures like a harvest festival.

If I look back to my childhood days in India, I can relate Thanksgiving to something similar.  My grandpa used to own lots of rice fields, as rice is the main staple grain of Southern India.  We used to get truck loads of rice for the whole year round of use and the rest were sold right in the farm.  By the time truck comes home, there will be lot of people gathered in the backyard to process the whole cut rice plant and get the grains separated from the stems.  I still remember day and night people used to work hard and they all come to grandpa's house in the morning and the kitchen will be working day and night.  Meals were provided to the workers and the lengthy process of boiling, drying and storing the rice grain would take weeks or even a month to settle down depending on the weather and the harvest load.  All I remember was its like a festival, lots of people are there to help and there will be music/news played all the time through the radio.  Sometimes we used to play cassettes with comedy songs, dramas or even audio version of movies for the workers.  They will be loud and at times they signal us for cold drinking water by giving a special howling sound.  It was all loud, noisy and energy packed days.  I relate this to Thanksgiving because all the family gather together to be part of the harvest to help out my grandpa.  My dad used to take time off from work and go to Kerala to help grandpa when we were in North India.  When all the harvest work is done, a feast will be given to the workers and rice sacks will be donated to them and our church.  This was not the just the tradition of our family, but everyone around us used to bring a little amount of their harvested product to church and the cooks of the church used to prepare a sweet porridge out of the rice with loads of grated coconut and jaggery.  The taste of porridge still makes me drool.  I wonder if anyone does that anymore as there are no more rice fields and people are busy and stay away from farming these days.
Red skinned baby potatoes, garlic powder, parsley flakes, red chili flakes, salt,  fresh rosemary, olive oil and 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice is tossed together and wrapped in aluminum foil and baked at 400 ° F for 40 minutes.

Thanksgiving to me is the time to thank for all the countless blessing we enjoy in our life.  The blessings are passed on to us by the prayers and good gestures of our parents and forefathers.  Never take anything for granted that you enjoy, it can be lost in a split second by the acts of cruelty and selfishness that is invading this world day by day.  Let us not just remember one day for thanksgiving; we should be thankful for each and every day that we get to spend.  Make this life beautiful and more meaningful by thinking positive and sharing and caring for each other so that there will be peace and joy everywhere.

I know I am late in posting the recipes for Thanksgiving.  But here is what I made today so that I could share with you before Thanksgiving.  I served the Jerk seasoned spicy stuffed cornish/game hens with mushroom wild rice stuffing/dressing and a side of herb roasted red skin baby potatoes.  The juices that was left over after baking the birds had all the flavors and seasoning needed for the gravy, so I served it as the gravy for the bird.  I used turmeric in the marination to give a golden yellow hue to the bird.   I served candied Sweet Potatoes topped with marshmallows and pecans as the dessert.  

Ingredients for jerk seasoned hens
3 - cornish/game hens with skin on and cleaned
To brine
1/3 cup - salt
1/3 cup - sugar/brown sugar
8 cups - cold water
3 cloves - garlic crushed with skin
1 tbsp - black peppercorn crushed
3 - dry red chili torn (optional)
1 sprig - rosemary

3 - scallions chopped
5 cloves - garlic (big ones)
1 inch - ginger piece peeled
1/4 cup - extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp - turmeric powder
1/2 tsp - peppercorn
1 tbsp - jerk seasoning
1 tsp - brown sugar
1 - habanero/bonnet pepper flesh only (no seeds)
salt to taste

Jerk seasoning
1/2 tbsp -  garlic powder
1 tsp - cayenne pepper
1 tsp - onion powder
1 tsp - dried thyme
1 tsp - dried parsley
1 tsp - sugar 
1 tsp - salt
1/2 tsp - paprika
1/2 tsp - ground allspice  
1/4 tsp - black pepper
1/4 tsp - dried crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp - ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp - ground cinnamon

Basting mix
1/4 cup - olive oil
1/2 tsp - jerk seasoning

Wild Rice mushroom stuffing
2 cups - wild and long grain rice
4 cups - chicken broth
1 tbsp - butter
1 - medium size onion slice
1 clove - garlic minced
1 cup - chicken broth
8 oz - mushrooms sliced
1/2 tsp - jerk seasoning
1/4 cup - walnuts
salt to taste


To brine
  • Dissolve the salt and sugar in the cold water in a non reactive container.  Add the crushed peppercorns, garlic and red chili into a small cheese cloth and tie it to make a small bag.  Place the cornish/game hens in the container with the brine and drop the spice bag into the container.  Cover and refrigerate for 4 to 8 hours.

To marinate
  • Blend all the ingredients under marination to form a smooth paste.  Take the birds out of the brine. Give a rinse under cold water and pat dry with paper towel.
  • Apply the marination inside and out side of the whole hens.  Use a skewer to poke few holes on the skin.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hrs.

  • Cook the wild and long grain rice mix in 4 cups of broth/water or as per the package direction.
  • Melt butter in a pan; roast minced garlic till golden brown.  Add onions and sliced mushroom and cook till they turn golden brown.  Add jerk seasoning and walnuts and saute for 2 more minutes.  Adjust the salt and add the chicken broth and wait till it boils for a minute.  Add the cooked rice to it.  Mix well and turn off the flame.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 ° F.
  • Transfer the rice mix to a greased baking pan and cover with an aluminum foil.  Bake for 20 minutes in .  Remove the aluminum foil and bake it for 10 minutes till the top turns light brown.

To bake
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • Prepare the baking pan by lining the bottom with a heavy duty aluminum foil and greasing it with butter or cooking spray.  Stuff the birds with 2 to 3 tbsp of rice stuffing and cross the legs and tie it with a clean string.  Arrange the birds in the baking pan without touching each other.  Brush the top of the birds with basting mix.  Loosely cover with aluminum foil and cook for 1/2 hr.  Take the baking pan out and test the internal temperature.  Cook it covered till the internal temperature gets to 170 F or the thicker portion is no longer pink.  It took me 1 hr. 
  •  Remove the aluminum foil and bast the top of the bird with basting oil.  Set the oven to broil option and bake for 10 more minutes till the skin turn golden brown.  
  • Collect any juice that remains in the pan after cooking.  Take the chicken out and loosely cover with a aluminum foil and leave it out for 10 minutes undisturbed.  Brush rest of the collected juices on top of the chicken and add the rest to the stuffing.  Enjoy!!

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