¼ cup finely chopped fresh sage, plus extra to garnish
¼ cup finely chopped fresh thyme leaves, plus 1 large sprig for the stock, and extra to garnish
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon lemon zest
1½ teaspoons salt
4 Cornish game hens (1¼ pound each)
1 pound chicken wings, separated into joints
1 cup coarsely chopped yellow onion
½ cup coarsely chopped carrot
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 tablespoon tomato paste
½ cup red wine
1½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon cornstarch
½ cup evaporated skim milk
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
In a small bowl, combine the sage, thyme leaves, lemon zest and salt.
Very carefully separate the skin from the meat on the breast and thighs of each hen, lifting it lightly from the meat without removing it. Rub a quarter of the herb blend directly onto the breast and thigh meat (under the skin) of each hen. Cover and chill the hens. This step can be done up to 8 hours ahead.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan or Dutch oven arrange the chicken wings in a single layer. Roast the wings on the oven's middle rack for 15 minutes, then turn them and roast for another 15 minutes, or until they are golden. Add the onion, carrot, garlic, tomato paste and the thyme sprig, then roast for another 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are slightly caramelized. Turn off the oven.
Set the pan of wings and vegetables over medium heat on the stovetop. Add the wine and bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom to release the browned bits. Simmer until the wine is reduced by half. Add the chicken broth and enough cold water to cover the wings by 1 inch. Bring the liquid to a boil and simmer for 2 hours, adding water as necessary to keep the wings covered.
After the liquid has simmered for 1½ hours, heat the oven to 475 degrees.
Remove the hens from the refrigerator and use paper towels to pat them dry. Coat them lightly with olive oil cooking spray, then use cooking twine to tie the legs together. Arrange the hens on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Roast them in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted at the leg thigh joint registers 165 degrees.
Transfer the hens to a platter, and let them rest, loosely covered with foil, for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, when the chicken stock has simmered for 2 hours, strain the mixture into a large bowl, discarding the solids. Skim off and discard any fat on top of the stock. Wipe clean the pot used to make the stock, then pour the stock back into it. Return it to the stovetop over high heat and boil until reduced to 1 cup, about 10 minutes.
In a small cup, whisk together the cornstarch and the evaporated skim milk. While whisking constantly, add the cornstarch mixture to the simmering stock. Continue whisking until thickened, then whisk in the mustard. Season with salt and pepper. Add the juices from the resting hens to the sauce. Transfer the hens to plates and pour some of the sauce over each one. Garnish with fresh thyme and sage.
Nutrition values per serving: 510 calories, 17 g fat (4.5 g saturated), 14 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 6 g sugar, 63 g protein, 265 mg cholesterol, 1220 mg sodium.
Sara Moulton for The Associated Press