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GOOD COOKING

Dinner for 6, the Cornish Way

October 26, 1995|ABBY MANDEL

This is a satisfying, sophisticated fall menu for six dinner guests. The focus is roasted Cornish hen served on a warm spinach salad, with a side dish of baked celery root puree.

For a first course, serve chilled ripe melon slices draped with paper-thin slices of prosciutto and a garnish of lime wedges. For dessert, stop in at your favorite bakery for a pear or apple tart. Serve chilled Gewurztraminer for both the main course and dessert.

Here's the strategy: Do your shopping several days in advance (Cornish hens are usually sold frozen and the best way to thaw them is to leave them overnight in the refrigerator). The day before the party, you can peel and cut melon into slices (keep them chilled and well-covered), set up the hens and prepare the glaze, the spinach salad components and the puree. On party day, assemble the melon and prosciutto, roast the hens, bake the puree, toss the salad and warm the fruit tart and some dinner rolls.

RUBY-GLAZED CORNISH HENS

Although roasting these hens is a last-minute deal, they require minimal attention from the cook. The glaze burns easily and is best brushed on after the hens have been partly roasted.

3 large Cornish hens

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup currant jam

1/3 cup cranberry juice cocktail

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Thaw hens if frozen. Split in half and remove backbone with shears. Wash and blot dry with paper towels and season generously with salt and pepper.

Line shallow roasting pan with foil and place hens in pan, skin side up. Roast hens at 400 degrees 30 minutes.

Combine jam, cranberry juice, mustard, 1/4 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper to taste in small bowl.

Remove hens from oven and brush on glaze. Return to oven and roast until deeply colored, about 25 minutes longer, brushing with glaze once more midway.

Remove hens from oven. Brush on any remaining glaze. Let rest 10 minutes, loosely tented with foil.

To serve, place hens on Warm Spinach Salad. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings.

Each serving contains about:

276 calories; 242 mg sodium; 74 mg cholesterol; 16 grams fat; 12 grams carbohydrates; 18 grams protein; 0.42 gram fiber.

WARM SPINACH SALAD WITH DRIED CRANBERRIES

8 cups young spinach leaves (stems removed)

4 slices lean bacon

3 tablespoons oil

1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/2 tablespoon water

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup cranberry juice cocktail

2 tablespoons dried cranberries

4 thin slices red onion

Wash spinach leaves, drain well and keep chilled until ready to use.

Cut bacon into small dice and cook in 8-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until well browned and crisp, about 3 minutes, stirring often. Use slotted spoon to transfer bacon to paper towels.

Pour off any excess bacon fat from pan but do not wipe pan out. Add oil, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, water, mustard, sugar, salt, pepper, cranberry juice and cranberries to pan. Bring to simmer and stir until well mixed. (Can be made several hours ahead to this point and kept at room temperature or refrigerated overnight.)

To serve, heat dressing in pan over medium heat. When hot, add onion slices, separating slices into rings. Remove from heat.

Place spinach leaves in large bowl and pour hot dressing over salad. Toss well to coat spinach with dressing. Adjust seasoning. Divide among 6 plates, arranging a few onions and cranberries over surface. Sprinkle bacon over, dividing evenly. If serving with Ruby-Glazed Cornish Hens, top each salad with 1 bird. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings.

Each serving contains about:

285 calories; 429 mg sodium; 23 mg cholesterol; 27 grams fat; 8 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 0.71 gram fiber.

BAKED CELERY ROOT PUREE WITH GARLIC AND PARMESAN CHEESE

3 baking potatoes

1 1/2 large celery roots

3 medium carrots

6 large cloves garlic, peeled

1/3 to 1/2 cup milk

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Scant 3/4 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

2 1/2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese

Peel potatoes and cut into 1-inch chunks. Using knife, remove celery-root skin and cut roots into 1/2-inch chunks. Peel carrots and cut into 1-inch chunks.

Put potatoes, celery roots and carrots in covered 2-quart saucepan with water to cover. Bring water to boil and reduce heat to medium. After 10 minutes, add garlic cloves. Cook until vegetables are soft, about 10 to 12 more minutes.

Drain vegetables and return to saucepan. Set over medium-high heat about 30 seconds to dry vegetables out, shaking pan to prevent burning.

Put mixture through potato ricer or puree coarsely in food processor fitted with metal blade (pulse briefly so that potatoes mash but do not become gummy). Add 1/3 cup milk and mix (or pulse briefly), adding more milk if too dry. Stir in butter, nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Transfer to 6 lightly greased 3/4-cup souffle dishes or 1 lightly greased 5-cup shallow baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese. (Can be made a day ahead to this point and refrigerated.)

Bake at 400 degrees, uncovered, until lightly browned and sizzling, about 30 to 40 minutes. Serve hot.

Makes 6 servings.

Each serving contains about:

139 calories; 421 mg sodium; 13 mg cholesterol; 5 grams fat; 21 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams protein; 0.92 gram fiber.

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