Love and Olive Oil

Roasted Chicken with Sweet-Potato Risotto and Cranberry Sauce

Cornish Game Hens with Sweet-Potato Risotto and Cranberry Sauce

New Year’s Dinner. The recipe called for Game Hens, but Trader Joe’s was fresh out (if they ever have them? I’ve never noticed), and we didn’t want to brave the Kroger birds. So we went with a whole chicken.

As far as roast chicken goes, it was pretty darn moist, but also pretty darn flavorless. What’s the trick to getting more flavor *inside* the meat (because honestly, tasting like chicken is not necessarily a good thing). Is brining the only way, or is there something we don’t know here? Thank goodness for the cranberry sauce and risotto, or this meal would have been pretty blah. Now that I think about it, it’s basically a mini-thanksgiving, as far as the flavors go, and this meal might make a good ‘alternative’ for a two-person holiday meal. Not that I’ll cook a turkey-alternative on Thanksgiving, but I’m just saying. If only we could get some more flavor into that meat…

Cornish Game Hens with Sweet-Potato Risotto and Cranberry Sauce

Adapted from Epicurious. Makes 4 servings.

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1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup cranberries
1/4 cup ruby Port

2 Cornish game hens, halved lengthwise or 1 medium chicken

1 pound yams (red-skinned sweet potatoes), peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
5 cups low-salt chicken broth
1 onion, chopped
4 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme, divided
1 cup arborio rice or medium-grain white rice
1/2 cup dry white wine


Bring first 4 ingredients to simmer in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Boil until reduced to 1 cup, stirring frequently, about 20 minutes. Puree sauce in processor. Strain into small bowl. (Sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, cover and chill.)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place game hens, cut side down, on small baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake 30 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 450°F. Continue baking until juices run clear when thickest part of thigh is pierced, about 20 minutes longer. If cooking a whole chicken, cook at 425°F for 15 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350°F. Cook until done (ours took about 1 1/2 hours).

Meanwhile, bring broth to simmer in heavy small saucepan; reduce heat to low and keep hot. Heat a swirl of olive oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add sweet potato, and cook until browned and tender. Remove from pan and allow to cool, then put in a food processor and puree (if it is too thick to properly puree, add some olive oil and/or broth to thin)

Return pan to burner, and heat another swirl of olive oil if needed. Add onion and ginger and cook until beginning to brown, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add thyme; stir 1 minute. Add rice and stir 1 minute. Add wine; stir until almost absorbed, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Add 1 cup hot broth and cook until almost all liquid is absorbed, stirring often. Continue adding hot broth 1 cup at a time and stirring frequently until rice is almost tender, 15-20 minutes. When almost al dente, add sweet potato puree and stir until combined, adding more liquid if necessary to make it the proper consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon risotto onto plates. Top with hen, and drizzle with cranberry sauce.

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  1. In writing an article and recipe for Cornish Hens with Apple Sauce, I was researching where my readers could find the hens in Nashville, as I am a Nashville Examiner writer, when I came across your blog. I wanted to take a minute to say hi and tell you what a lovely site and beautiful sounding recipe! This blog has a classiness about it that speaks volumes about its author. Kudos to you. Have a lovely day. Linda

  2. We always go organic free-range when it comes to chicken and it definitely has more flavour.

    To get more flavour into the meat though I push butter and sliced garlic (and even some springs of thyme) under the skin at the top then melt a small amount of butter and brush this over the skin before it goes in the oven. Cook covered with tin foil until the last 20 mins of cooking time then remove to crisp up the skin. This keeps the meat lovely and moist. Regular basting is also a must.

    Love the idea of roast chicken with the risotto, yummy!

  3. Hi Lindsay,
    It’s hard to get a good tasting chicken these days. There is a reason to go “organic, free-range” and all that, they really do taste better. I would scope out a good poultry market in the Nashville area, or perhaps someone at your local farmers market. You can add as many flavors as you want, but if the bird has no flavor to start out with it’s not much help, may as well spice up tofu (which I know you like, but I don’t). Most Americans don’t really know what a chicken tastes like anyways. Am I sounding like I should be on a bandwagon? Perhaps…

  4. I’m a big Martha fan and watch her show and I’ve seen her loosen the chicken skin from the meat and slide in bundles of spices and some butter. I imagine the skin traps the flavors inside the bird. Also, spices in the body cavity? And rubbing the outside with spices?

    I havent tried these myself, but it might help?

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