Stuffed Hen with Vegetables, Stuffed Cabbage Leaves & Gratin of Macaroni
Jean-Louis Palladin, Fred J. Maroon, Jean-Louis: Cooking with the Seasons - February 19th, 2014
Makes 4 to 6 servings
- 1 (6—6 1/2 lbs.) hen (stewing chicken)
- stuffing for hen (recipe follows)
- 1 lg. unpeeled onion, cut in half
- fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- about 4 qts. water
- 2 cups V-8 juice
- 2 1/2 cups unpeeled tomatoes, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups unpeeled carrots, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups celery, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups leeks (mostly white part), chopped
- 1 1/2 cups unpeeled turnips, chopped
- 3/4 cup shallots, chopped
- 1/4 cup coarse salt
- 15 lg. parsley sprigs
- 15 very leafy thyme sprigs
- 3 lg. unpeeled garlic cloves, crushed
- 7 lg. bay leaves
- 2 tsps. whole black peppercorns
- 1 recipe stuffed cabbage leaves prepared up to the point of steaming (recipe follows; see Note)
Gratin of macaroni:
- 3 quarts broth reserved from cooking hen
- 1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni
- 3 Tbsps. unsalted butter, softened
- fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan (preferably imported)
- 2 doz. pearl onions, peeled
- 6 lg. shallots
- 2 med. leeks (mostly white part), cut into 3” pieces
- 2 doz. baby carrots, peeled
- 6 fresh uncooked artichoke hearts (preferred) or 6 canned artichoke hearts packed in water, drained
- 20 (2 1/2” long) asparagus tips, tough skin from thicker ends peeled with a vegetable peeler
- 1 cup shelled green peas
Note: If desired, add to the cabbage leaf filling 1 thinly sliced artichoke heart; keep stuffed cabbage leaves refrigerated until ready to steam them.
Stuff and cook the hen:
Char both onion halves in the same skillet; set aside.
Tuck the wings underneath the back of the hen and place it breast-up in a large roasting pan. Generously season the large and neck cavities with fine sea salt and pepper. Fill the large cavity with the stuffing (if you have a little left over, fill the neck cavity, too); sew up cavity (or cavities, if both are stuffed) with needle and thread, then truss hen with more thread to tie legs close to the body. Use a knife with a pointed tip to prick about 10 tiny holes through the skin covering the large cavity (do the same with the skin over the neck cavity, if stuffed) to prevent stuffing from overexpanding when cooked.
Place a soup pot over high heat and add 4 qts. of water and the V-8 juice to it. Add to the pot the reserved charred onion halves, the chopped tomatoes, carrots, celery, leeks, turnips, and shallots, and the coarse salt, parsley and thyme sprigs, garlic, bay leaves, and peppercorns; then add the stuffed hen and the hen’s neck and gizzard. Add more water, if needed, to cover all the other ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and strongly simmer for 30 minutes.
Now prick holes again through the skin covering the hen’s cavity (or cavities) and continue cooking until tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours more, skimming occasionally; do not overcook. To judge doneness, insert a skewer between the thigh and body down to the thigh/hip joint and withdraw it; wait a few seconds, then if the juices run clear, it’s done. Transfer hen to a platter and set aside until cool enough to handle.
Meanwhile, return the broth in the pot to a boil and continue boiling until reduced to 3 qts., about 30 to 45 minutes. Remove from heat and strain. If not finishing the dish fairly promptly, cool briefly and refrigerate.
When the hen is cool enough to handle, carefully remove the stuffing from the cavity (or cavities), keeping it as intact as possible; then carve the hen into 8 pieces. Cover stuffing and hen pieces and set aside; cover and refrigerate if prepared ahead.
Now prepare the stuffed cabbage leaves, if not already done, up to the point of steaming; refrigerate.
To finish the dish and serve:
Heat oven to 450°F. Also preheat broiler if it’s a separate unit from the oven.
For the gratin of macaroni, bring the reserved 3 qts. broth to a rolling boil in a 4 qt. pot over high heat. Add the macaroni, reduce heat to medium, and cook for 8 minutes. Transfer macaroni with a slotted spoon to a colander to drain; set broth aside.
Butter the bottom and sides of the gratin dish with 1 Tbsp. of the butter. Line the bottom of the dish with 1/2 of the macaroni, then cut the remaining butter in small pieces and dot macaroni with 1/2 of it; lightly season top with salt and pepper and sprinkle with 4 Tbsps. more Parmesan. Pour 1/3 cup of the reserved broth evenly over the top; set aside the remaining broth for finishing the hen dish. Bake uncovered in the preheated oven for 15 minutes.
Remove macaroni from oven and immediately reduce oven setting to 350°F for reheating stuffing. Sprinkle the remaining 1 Tbsp. Parmesan over the top of the macaroni and cover to keep warm until time to brown top under the broiler just before serving.
Meanwhile, finish the hen dish as follows: Bring the reserved broth to a boil. Add the pearl onions, whole shallots, and pieces of leek; reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the hen pieces and return to a simmer, add the carrots and artichoke hearts, then 5 minutes later add the asparagus tips and peas; continue cooking 10 minutes more. Remove from heat and set aside.
Reheat the stuffing, covered, in the 350°F oven for about 15 minutes; once reheated, slice into 4 to 6 pieces and cover to keep warm.
At the last possible moment, steam the plastic wrapped stuffed cabbage leaves in the covered steamer over boiling water just until heated through, 5 to 7 minutes; once steamed, remove stuffed leaves from steamer and set aside, still wrapped in plastic.
When the hen dish and stuffed cabbage leaves have finished cooking and the stuffing has been reheated and sliced, uncover the gratin of macaroni and broil about 4” from the heat source until top is brown and bubbly, about 1 minute; watch closely. Serve immediately.
Arrange a portion of the hen, stuffing, and an assortment of the vegetables in each wide soup bowl. Unwrap the stuffed cabbage leaves and cut in half if serving more than 4 people; add to the bowls. Ladle enough broth over the top to cover the vegetables. Serve with the macaroni on the side.
Stuffed cabbage leaves:
Makes 4 stuffed cabbage leaves
- 1 med. head Savoy cabbage (about 2 1/2 lbs.)
- salt water (1/4 cup coarse salt mixed with 3 qts. water) for blanching vegetables
- ice water for cooling blanched vegetables
- 1/3 cup peeled carrots, very finely chopped
- 1/3 cup peeled turnips, very finely chopped
- 1/2 cup leeks (mostly white part), finely chopped
- 1/3 cup peeled tomatoes, very finely chopped
- 4 Tbsps. unsalted butter
- 2 Tbsps. shallots, very finely chopped
- fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Remove from the cabbage head 6 of the largest, darkest green, and most perfect cabbage leaves (2 leaves are extras in case any rip); set aside. Very finely shred just enough of the remaining cabbage to yield 5 cups; make strips no wider than 1/8” (a meat slicer works well for this). Set aside.
Bring the salt water to a rolling boil in a large pot. Add the cabbage leaves and blanch until tender enough to fold, about 2 minutes, gently stirring occasionally. Immediately transfer the leaves with a slotted spoon to the ice water, being careful not to rip them; reserve the salt water. Drain the leaves (reserve the ice water) and blot dry with paper towels. Shave or trim the thick stem end of each leaf so it will fold easily.
Return salt water to a boil; add the shredded cabbage and blanch until tender but still crisp, about 2 minutes. Cool in the ice water, leaving salt water boiling. Drain shredded cabbage on paper towels, reserving the ice water. Add the carrots to the boiling water and cook for 1 minute, then add the turnips and 30 seconds later the leeks, then continue cooking 1 1/2 minutes more. Transfer carrot mixture to the ice water with a slotted spoon; drain on paper towels. Combine carrot mixture with the shredded cabbage and tomatoes in a bowl, mixing well.
To finish the filling, melt the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté for about 30 seconds. Add the shredded cabbage mixture, season generously with salt and pepper, and sauté until filling is heated through, about 1 1/2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
Spread the cabbage leaves smoother sides down on a work surface and place 1/4 of the filling in the center of each; fold leaves as you would an envelope to form rolls. Place 1 stuffed cabbage leaf seam-side up in the center of a large (about 1’) square of plastic wrap; bring all edges of the wrap together and twist wrap tightly to snugly bundle the stuffed cabbage leaf inside, forcing out as much air as possible as you wrap. Continue twisting edges of plastic until tightly coiled so it won’t unwrap when the stuffed cabbage leaf is steamed; once done, the packaged leaf should be about a 2” ball. Next, prick 4 or 5 tiny holes through the plastic with a pin; if the holes enlarge, wrap with more plastic without removing the first piece and prick new holes. Repeat with the remaining 3 stuffed cabbage leaves. (These may be prepared to this point several hours ahead; keep refrigerated.)
When ready to serve, steam the plastic-wrapped stuffed cabbage leaves in the covered steamer over boiling water just until heated through, 5 to 7 minutes. Unwrap and serve immediately.
Stuffing for hen:
Makes about 2 cups
- 14 oz. (about 1/3 large loaf) brioche (preferred) or other white bread, crust trimmed and bread cut into 2” cubes (about 4 1/2 cups)
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/3 cup prosciutto (2 ounces), finely chopped
- 1/2 cup onions, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup shallots, sliced
- 3 lg. garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- leaves from 2 oz. fresh parsley sprigs (about 30 large sprigs)
- 2 Tbsps. fresh thyme leaves
- 6 oz. chicken livers
- liver and heart from hen, if received
- 1 lg. egg, lightly beaten
- 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 2 tsps. granulated sugar
- 2 tsps. fine sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
In a medium-size bowl, soak the brioche in the milk for 5 minutes; squeeze dry and set aside. In a food processor, combine the prosciutto, onions, shallots, garlic, and parsley and thyme leaves; process mixture until finely chopped. Add the chicken livers and heart and liver from the hen; continue processing until all ingredients are minced. Transfer mixture to a medium-size bowl and add the egg, flour, sugar, salt, a generous amount of pepper, and the reserved brioche, mixing thoroughly by hand. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 3 hours, before stuffing the hen.
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