Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday. But Thanksgiving is meant to be enjoyed by a lot of people. The same is true of any holiday when a big dinner, a lot of cooking and baking, and extensive preparation is involved.
If your Thanksgiving didn’t involve a crowd, chances are you opted for a turkey breast, or meatloaf, or dinner out. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but if you wanted to celebrate with a special dinner at home, and couldn’t think of a suitable substitute for turkey with all the trimmings, file this idea away for the next occasion.
Individual Game Hens
These little birds look just like miniature turkeys; they get the same golden brown after only about an hour in the oven, and they go directly from roasting pan to dinner plate with no fuss. Served with a combination of roasted fingerling potatoes and sweet potato chunks, a delicious fresh salad of lettuce, tomato, avocado and crispy sugar snap peas, and your beverage of choice, it’s a dinner deserving a place on a special menu, and fit for any special celebration.
The added benefit is that it’s lighter fare than turkey and gravy, marshmallow-topped candied yams and heavy stuffing, and you likely won’t suffer from overeating the way too many of us do following a Thanksgiving dinner. It’s also not unusual to have enough chicken left for a hearty sandwich the next day. And, if there are leftover roasted potatoes, they can be a delicious cold snack while watching the game, or can be added to a soup the following day.
Preparing a turkey is easy. Preparing a game hen — or even game hens for a crowd — is even easier. Because they are small, they require minimal time in the oven. In order to bear the name, the hens must weigh in at 2.2 pounds or less. You can slip them in the oven with little more than a dusting of salt and pepper and a quick brush of oil; you can also stuff them, glaze them, marinate them, baste them with apple juice and butter or “get fancy” in any number of other ways. No matter what you do, though, they will be hot and ready to eat in just a little over an hour. Now, that alone is enough to recommend them in the eyes of many busy homemakers.
The turkey substitutes that graced our table this Thanksgiving were “stuffed” with a bit of onion and some fresh tarragon, hand rubbed with olive oil, salt and a bit of garlic, and basted a couple times with butter to brown up the skin nicely before serving. The potatoes were dusted as well with salt, pepper and garlic salt, tossed with olive oil, and covered with foil. They shared oven space with the game hens: 375 degrees for about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Keep It Simple for a Crowd — This recipe for lemon-pepper roasted game hens, courtesy of Patrick and Gina Neely, is easy enough to do for a game-day get together, and would be a crowd-pleaser any season of the year; simply alter the sides and set it all out on a buffet table.
A Real Holiday Treat — Stuffed just like the big bird, this truly is a special holiday dinner for two done right! Add this one to your “favorites” list, and return to it again and again!