Game Hens in Apricot, Tequila, and California Chile Sauce
3 cups chicken broth, or more as needed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 tablespoons golden tequila
Two 2-pound Cornish game hens, thawed if frozen
3 California chiles, stemmed and seeded
½ cup apricot preserves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh apricot halves, for garnish
This recipe is one of my favorites ever. It comes from my aunt Marcela, a chef who inspired me to enter the magical world of the culinary arts. We not only share the same name and the same career, we also agree that sweet and spicy is one of the best combinations when preparing Mexican food.
Store-bought apricot preserves, used here, work well; just be sure to buy the best you can find. A kitchen syringe is a useful tool for injecting the hens with a flavorful mixture of broth, butter, and tequila. The result is a moist and succulent dish.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Mix ½ cup of the chicken broth, the melted butter, and 2 tablespoons of the tequila in a small glass bowl. Using a kitchen syringe, inject the mixture all over the hens, about ½ inch deep into the flesh. (If the butter in the mixture solidifies, warm it in a microwave.)
Put the chiles and 2 cups of the broth in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove the pan from the heat. Let stand for 5 minutes to soften the chiles. Then transfer the mixture to a blender and puree until smooth. Strain the chile mixture into a small bowl, pressing on the sieve to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard whatever is left in the sieve.
Mix ¼ cup of the preserves and ¼ cup of the chile mixture in a medium bowl. Season heavily with salt and pepper. Rub the mixture all over the hens, working some of it between the skin and the breast. Put the hens on a rack in a large roasting pan. Add the remaining ½ cup broth to the roasting pan.
Roast, basting with the pan drippings every 20 minutes, for 1 hour, or until a thermometer inserted into a thigh registers 160°F. Add more broth if the juices begin to dry out.
Transfer the hens to a platter. Strain the pan juices into a medium saucepan. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons tequila, ¼ cup apricot preserves, and chile mixture. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the sauce thickens slightly. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the sauce over the hens, garnish the platter with fresh apricot halves, and serve.
Excerpted from Fresh Mexico by Marcela Valladolid. Copyright © 2009 by Marcela Valladolid. Excerpted by permission of Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.