Rob Feenie

Alsatian Cornish Hen With Purée De Pommes De Terre And Choucroute

By Rob Feenie

Alsace is a big part of who I am; that whole region is like my second home.

Especially north of Strasbourg, where I had the opportunity to cook for six months when I was 26 or 27. I was working with [Alsatian chef ] Michel Jacob at Le Crocodile [in Vancouver] and I really wanted to meet the chefs who had inspired him. So Michel gave me time off to go to Alsace and connected me with Au Crocodile’s Émile Jung, who he used to look up to as a kid, and Johnny Letzer, who basically taught him how to cook. Maison Letzer was only open on weekends, and a big part of what they’d do was tarte flambée and choucroute garnie—so I actually learned how to make those Alsatian classics there.

In Alsace, choucroute garnie is seasonal—it’s garnished with lake fish in summer and pork in winter. To have it with poultry is a bit different. That’s my twist. I used to do this dish for the tasting bar at Lumière.. I make it for the family every winter. My kids always ask for it. Next year I’m going to take them to Alsace and we’ll stay with Johnny. Then they’ll have their first three-star experience at Auberge de l’Ill, Marc Haeberlin’s restaurant. In the meantime, they’ll eat this! —R.F.

From Canada’s 100 Best Cooking Issue 2016

INGREDIENTS

Serves
2

Hen

  • 1 Cornish game hen, about 700 g (1¼ lb), wishbone removed
  • Salt, white pepper
  • 2 lemon quarters
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 2 small garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
  • 2 tbsp soft butter

Potatoes

  • 2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, about 350 g (3/4 lb)
  • Salt
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) whipping cream, warm
  • 2 tbsp butter, cubed
  • white pepper

Choucroute

  • ½ tbsp butter
  • ½ tbsp duck fat
  • 1 thick rasher bacon, sliced into lardons
  • 250 ml (1 cup) thinly sliced onion
  • 250 ml (1 cup) dry Riesling
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) sauerkraut, drained
  • Spice sachet wrapped in cheesecloth and tie (1 small piece cinnamon bark, 1 small bay leaf, 1 crushed clove, 1 crushed juniper berry, ¼ tsp each mustard and coriander seed, 1 pinch white pepper)
  • Salt, white pepper

Sauce

  • 250 ml (1 cup) dry Riesling
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • ½ tbsp rice vinegar
  • ½ tbsp grainy mustard
  • 1 tbsp butter, in small cubes
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Salt, white pepper
METHOD

Preheat oven to 190°C (375°F). Generously season the cavity of the bird. Insert lemon, thyme and garlic into its cavity. Truss. In a bowl combine butter with a generous lashing of salt and white pepper. Combine, and rub all over bird. Transfer bird breast-sidedown to a plate lined with parchment paper and refrigerate until butter hardens—about 10 minutes. Use the paper to gently flip the bird onto a rack in a roasting tray, then carefully remove it without dislodging the butter. Transfer to middle rack of the oven and toast, basting periodically, until bird is brown and crisp, and its juices run clear when the thigh is pierced—about 40 minutes. Then set aside to rest for at least 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, place potatoes in a medium pot, add cold water to cover and place on high heat. When the water boils, salt generously and lower to a simmer. Cook until just tender— about 20 minutes. Then drain, peel with the edge of a knife and pass potatoes through a ricer into a clean saucepan. Over low heat gently fold in the cream until incorporated, then the butter, one piece at a time. Season to taste. Pass through a tamis (or other fine-mesh sieve) into a fresh saucepan, then press a sheet of plastic wrap down directly onto the potato mixture to keep it moist. Cover to keep warm.

For the choucroute, melt butter and fat in a saucepan on medium heat. Add bacon and onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the bacon is cooked and the onions are soft but not coloured—about 10 minutes. Add wine, sauerkraut and spice sachet, and simmer until liquid is reduced and incorporated—about 10 minutes. Remove sachet, stir, season to taste and keep warm.

To make the sauce combine wine, soy sauce and vinegar in a saucepan on medium-high heat. Boil, reduce by a third and strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean saucepan. Whisk in the mustard over medium heat, then reduce to low and whisk in the butter one piece at a time. Follow with the lemon juice. Season to taste and keep warm.

To finish, carefully carve the two legs from the bird with their thighs attached. Remove the wings and then the breasts in two whole pieces. Divide choucroute between two warmed plates. Place a half-breast on top of each portion, then prop a leg and wing against it. Place a quenelle of potato alongside, and finish with the sauce.

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