I know it’s not Thanksgiving without a turkey, but this year I wanted to do something a little non-traditional. Every now and then it’s nice to change things up and bottom line for me: if it tastes really good, why not serve it for the dinner of all dinners? The harissa paste is fiery and spicy, but what I really love about this recipe is the cous cous. They include two of my favorite ingredients, saffron and preserved lemons. If any dish includes either of these ingredients, I’m making it/ordering it! The stuffing is particularly delicious after having been steamed in the Cornish hens. I may or may not have eaten the stuffing out of all these hens. If you’re insisting on a turkey for Thanksgiving (and I don’t blame you!) you could easily use the same harissa seasoning I have here. I have yet to try this with turkey, but harissa works with any poultry really. If you don’t make this recipe this week, I hope you try it soon– it’s one of my favorites!
Cous cous ingredients
- To make the marinade, combine the harissa, turmeric, cinnamon, salt and olive oil in a bowl. Pat the hens dry with paper towels and slather the marinade over the hens. Allow the hens to marinate for at least 3-4 hours or overnight in the fridge.
- To make the cous cous, see how much water is required on the package (this varies from brand to brand). Boil enough water for 2 cups of cous cous with 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 teaspoons of salt and pour over the cous cous. Wrap the bowl of cous cous in plastic wrap and let the moisture absorb for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
- Cut the yellow onion in half and cut into thin slices. Heat about 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large sautee pan and add saffron. Heat until the oil begins to simmer and you can smell the saffron (be careful not to heat the saffron for too long because it will burn). Add the onions and a large pinch of salt and sautee on medium heat until they become soft and yellow, but not caramelized.
- Remove the rind from the preserved lemon and cut into thin strips (discard the pulp of the preserved lemon). Remove the pits from the olives and roughly chop. Remove the pits from the dates and finely chop. Combine the cous cous, saffron onions, preserved lemon rind, olives, dates and almonds together. Season to taste. Roughly chop a handful of cilantro and fold into the mixture.
- Preheat the oven to 350. Transfer about 1/3 of the cous cous into another bowl. This will be used as the stuffing but because it will touch raw chicken, we want to keep it separate from the cous cous that will be served under the cooked chickens. Stuff the hens with the cous cous mixture. Truss the hens with string, or tie the legs together. Sprinkle the hens with a little more salt and pepper and drizzle with a little more olive oil. Roast for 45 minutes, basting the hens every 20 minutes or so.
- Let the hens rest for at least 15 minutes before serving. If you have a heavy butcher knife you can cut the hens down the middle (being very careful when doing so!). Serve on a bed of cous cous.
(images by HonestlyYUM)