It’s officially Holiday time and Thanksgiving is here. I can hardly believe it.
So far, fall has been wonderful. It’s been full of great weather, lovely falling leaves, which I enjoy staring at from my home office, and plentiful holiday recipes and planning to consider.
While Atlanta is “home” for me 70% of the time, there’s nothing like home, especially during the season that brings crisp temperatures. I wasn’t going to go to Virginia this Thursday, but when Mami calls in her jovial voice and borderline begs me to come, I can’t resist.
How could I?
That’s all I really need to put a dent into my plans of staying here to cook for clients that put in a request. Family first, right? But, not only does a trip to VA put a dent in my plans of house-hopping two days from now, it also means that I have to organize my scattered thoughts and concentrate on what I am going to make for dinner en casa de mami.
In past year’s, I’ve always committed to making candied yams (a great recipe I got 12 years ago from my brother’s piano teacher), French green beans, rosemary red skin mashed potatoes and cornbread dressing (or stuffing). All those are far from being Cuban or even Latin dishes so they add a great mashup next to all the Cuban staples Mami makes. Honestly, the menu is predictable but it’s always on point and consistently delicious. At the end of the day that’s what matters to everyone at our table.
All 20 of us.
But this year, my new writing gigs have created new experiences and allowed me to cook things that appeal to the respective publication’s audience. Sometimes they coincide and compliment my cooking style; other times they are on polar sides of the world. Awesome.
Guess what that means? I’ll be cheerfully editing down my menu and adding new things to the dinner table this year. Change is good, especially when it means culinary expansion. It won’t be an easy feat, I admit. My family is very Cuban. Very Latino. They like things a certain way and everyone, including life-long American (non-Latino) friends that share the evening with us, expect a certain experience coming out of the H kitchen.
They all know how my mom throws down and they all want it just like she plans.
But, I’m about to show out and keep them quiet for about 90 seconds while they bite and experience my tasty creations. I won’t lie and say that a Latin influence won’t be injected, but the dominant theme will be what I call ‘fancy eclectic.’ That includes some southern flare–you know, tastes I’ve acquired in Atlanta.
While thinking about what my new signature dish could be, I remembered having cooked a fabulous and ultra aromatic cornish hen for an ex-boyfriend back in 1998. Yes, 12 years ago. I thought I was so grown and made this guy (whom actually orders flan from me today!) a sexy Thanksgiving dinner. Dinner for just the two of us.
And it was great.
Why not try it again? It’s been that long since I’ve played with the small chick and it could only be 10 times better now. So, Latina Magazine asked me to come up with a turkey alternative recipe for this week’s column.
¡Fabuloso! What a perfect assignment.
I made my little bird with a fresh perspective and approach. I was aiming for herbal aromas, textures and juiciness. I’m not a huge fan of turkey because of its likely bland and dry nature. And, truthfully it has entirely too much white meat for me. And so does the hen, but reversing that all came down to the way I was going to season it.
Okay, so it had to have a Latin twist. Check. The question was what was I going to do to make it sing!
Well, I let my hair down, thought about how excited Latina readers were going to be and better yet how my dad is going to be licking his fingers come Thursday and went to work.
Imagine this: mojo, a classic seasoning in Latin cuisine, sage (buttery, aromatic and minty), oranges, cranberries and pecans. Can you smell it? Can you taste the meat?
Oh wait, and with a medley of mini potatoes for added color!
I dare say it was tear-jerker. A happy moment. I have reconnected with one of my first intimate cooking moments.
This time, 12 years later, my new friend and I thoroughly enjoyed my 2010 and highly sophisticated version of my cornish hen! Savory, sweet, herbal, smooth and with a light crunch.
That’s something to be thankful for!
Tired of turkey? Try this succulent, robust and layered texture bird. He’s really good!
Have a blessed Thanksgiving, filled with joy, happiness, food, family, friends and sexy shoes!
I’ll have mine on all night!
Cranberry and Caramelized Pecan Cornish Hen with Citrus Mojo
- 1 cup citrus mojo (pre-made), parted
- 1/2 cup pecans
- 1/4 cup cranberry juice
- 2 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
- 5 cloves garlic, mashed
- 6 sage leaves
- 1 large navel orange, parted (1/2 in hen)
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. dry oregano
- 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. dry white cooking wine
- 1 sprig rosemary (for garnish)
Untie wings from hen. Remove heart and gizzards from inside cavity. Remove excess fat around legs. Rinse hen and pat dry. Place hen on large plate. Stuff hen with 2 cloves of garlic, 2 wedges of 1/2 orange, 2 sage leaves and 2 tablespoons of mojo. Flip hen right side up. Pour remaining mojo, making sure to cover bird. Rub garlic, cumin, oregano and salt throughout. Sprinkle cooking wine on top. Place 4 sage leaves on top and sides of hen. Cover and let marinade in fridge for one to two hours.
Heat oil in large dutch oven. Using tongs, place hen onto pan. Brown on each side until golden brown, approximately 5-6 minutes each. Using tongs, remove orange wedges from inside cavity and squeeze onto hen. Pour mojo seasoning and herbs into pot and squeeze remaining orange. Cover and cook on medium heat for 45 minutes. Uncover lid and add dried cranberries. Cover and let simmer for 10 additional minutes. Remove hen from pot and set aside.
For caramelized pecan glaze:
Add butter to non-stick pan and bring heat to medium. Stir in pecans. Cook until they begin to toast. Add brown sugar and stir for 2 minutes until it begins to lightly bubble. Lower heat and add cranberry juice. Stir until mix begins to thicken, approximately 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat.