Thursday, January 13, 2011

Lunch For A Chilly Afternoon. Spice Rubbed Game Hen With a Walnut Pomegranate Sauce.

    It's cold and foggy here in Sonoma. It's actually less cold than it's been (yesterday it was 27 when I got up in the morning) but that's because it's getting ready to rain. It's the kind of weather that's great for writers. Nothing to distract. The prospect of going out is actually more work than staying in and well... just working. But that's no excuse for a dull lunch. Our main meal of the day (on weekdays) is lunch. Weekends is for parties and dinners, a whole other matter. Weekdays, sanity reigns and we eat like Europeans: Big midday meal, an apple and cheese in the evening. Most of the time I cook Indian food but I also like to mix it up, especially when I can get my hands on something fresh that I usually see frozen. Today it was Game Hens.
    I love those little birds, but most of the time they are frozen icy little poultry spheres and somehow I'm always suspicious. Yesterday however, I found some fresh at Sonoma Market, so of course I had to buy one. They make a great entree. One bird halved, rubbed and either grilled or pan roasted makes a nice filling entree.
  Preparing the rub:
I have a basic rub that I like to use when grilling quail and it works well with other poultry too. It's pretty easy. Mix together:
 1/2 tsp of allspice
 1/2 tsp of cayenne (I usually use Kashmiri chili)
 1/4 tsp of salt
 ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Spice Rubbed Game Hen

  Preparing the birds:
Rinse them thoroughly in cold water and dry them.
Split the game hen in half through the breast and then remove the back bone.
Rub the spice mix over the birds.
Drizzle the birds with a bit of olive oil. Then pop them into the oven and immediately drop the heat to 350 degrees. Roast them for about 40 to 45 minutes.
   While the birds were roasting I decided to make a sauce. I'd been thinking about walnuts a lot and ever since I participated in the POMwonderful dinner, I've been making my own pomegranate molasses. Walnut and pomegranate trees are pretty common around here in Sonoma, and this is walnut season and the tail-end of pomegranate season, so it seemed like the perfect time to take advantage of these wonderful seasonal treats.
   I knew I had to use them in some kind of sauce. When I grill quail, I usually serve them with a molasses spice reduction. I thought hmmmmm, why can't I try this with my pomegranate molasses and while I'm at it, why can't I work walnuts into this thing in some way?  So I did.

  Preparing the sauce:
In a small cast iron skillet I toasted about 1 cup of walnuts.
 When they're nice and toasty, grind them into a fine paste.
In a small pan mix the ground toasted walnuts with about 1/2 cup of water.
 Mix it well and bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and keep the walnut mixture to a simmer. It will thicken as it cooks.
 When the walnut mixture starts to thicken a bit add in:
 3 Tbs of pomegranate molasses.
Stir the sauce a bit. Then add in:
1 tsp of Tropical Traditions Organic Raw Honey
 And a pinch of cinnamon.
 Salt to taste and add a turn of ground black pepper. Continue to let the sauce thicken and reduce.
Always taste for flavor as you go.
I added a handful of fresh pomegranate arils.

I also added a dab of butter (a very tiny piece) to help with the glaze and smooth the sauce, and when the game hens were ready I put 1 tsp of pan drippings into the sauce. I drizzled the sauce over the game hen halves and then scattered a few more arils.
    The sauce worked. Grinding the nuts gave the sauce a thick, mole-like texture. The combination of the toasted earthiness of the walnuts, the sweet tang of pomegranate molasses and the undertone of cinnamon and honey all played together to accent the spicy kick of the game hen rub.
   It was served with shredded red cabbage (those little bags again) cooked in a bit of apple juice and apple cider, and some lightly steamed baby potatoes. For something that just occurred to me as I was staring at that little bird and wondering what I could do with it, it was a really great lunch, and it's a good reason to keep walnuts and pomegranates around the house when they're so abundant, as they are here.
   Meanwhile, I'm working on a special dessert. I've made two versions of it so far and I'm not quite pleased with it yet so I've been eating my mistakes. I'm hoping to have it perfected soon. So is my butt.


  1. Oh I love this! Pomegranates are quite popular in blog posts today I have found!

    That's because they're so 'dern' awesome :o)

  2. This is far fancier than my lunch today. Can we trade?

  3. This looks wonderful. Much better than my matzo ball soup.

  4. Yeah, definitely heads and tails above my sandwich! And lucky you finding fresh game hens :)

  5. Really? You made this for lunch? You're just showing off now, woman! I too love those little birdies when fresh, so i understand your need to make them.

  6. That's some compliment coming from the mad chef of Seattle! Every day you blind me with science and deliciousness. Good luck at the home show!

  7. @Janis,
    well, you needed that are recovering!

  8. you can still get them this is the time to enjoy enjoy enjoy!

  9. Walnut and pomegranate sauce sounds delightful and looks so pretty on the chicken.

  10. My husband loves Indian food. He would loves all the spices in this chicken!

  11. This sounds like such a lovely lunch! I would definitely be stuffed after this one!

  12. Hi Kathy! Oh I adore game hens! The flavor is so far superior to chicken, even for heritage breeds I believe! I would certainly feel warmed up by having that lovely lunch! All the best! Alex@amoderatelife

  13. I think I need to get into this pomegranate craze... looks so yum....

  14. @penny aka jeroxie, you definitely need to. I'm totally hooked.



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