The birthday dinner went well and the guests loved the mixed roasts of game birds and chicken. This is possibly my most favorite dish to make and serve when you have a dinner party that is casual. I like to see people tucking in, picking their favorite parts from a large platter nicely stacked with quails, cornish hens and chicken.
Initially, I wanted to include pheasants and forgo the whole idea of a chicken to make this a gamey dinner but I couldn’t find any at the grocery store. So, chicken it is! Although, Cornish hens are technically teenage chickens that are less than 2pounds each. But if you let these Cornish hens free in the wild and have a bunch of hunters hunt for them, they will be labeled as Cornish Game Hens – so they can pass off as game meat as well. Anyway, they tasted great and the quails were nicely gamey but I suspect I needed to marinate the quails more because of it’s texture and less-fat content in its meat. The chicken, well, the chicken tastes like good ol’ chicken.
I got this dinner idea from none other than Mr. Jamie Oliver. In both Jamie in Italy and Jamie at Home cookbooks, he celebrated the idea of having more than one kind of meat for roasting, which is brilliant for Thanksgiving or Christmas or any dinner party. And I concur, why settle for one type of bird when you can have 3 or 5 or 7! He arrange his mixed roasts on a bed of polenta, which I have substituted for parsnips and cauliflower puree because I was serving roasted smashed potatoes as one of my side dishes. The parsnip puree idea was taken from Au Pied de Cochon’s Duck in a Can where the canned ducky goodness is poured over parnip puree covered toasts. I figured, the flavors of parsnips would work terribly well with gamey meats as ducks are rather gamey as well.
I would recommend anyone hosting a dinner party for 7-10 people to try this recipe as it is bound, as Jamie Oliver would say, to make you some very good friends.
Mixed Roast on Parsnips and Cauliflower Puree
6 quails, washed and halved
2 Cornish hens, washed and quartered
1 chicken, washed and cut into 8 pieces (quartered and then detach drumsticks from the thigh and wings from the breasts – this will give you 8 pieces)
10 slices of bacon
Zest from two oranges
Juice from two oranges
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary
1 cup of Pinot Noir (but you can use other red wines that you like)
2 teaspoon tomato paste
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Parsnip and Cauliflower Puree
3 cups parsnips, roughly chopped
2 cups cauliflower florets
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and whole
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Gremolata (for sprinkling)
5 large basil leaves
zest from 1 lemon
2 cloves of garlic
1. Place the birds in a large roasting tray and rub them with salt and pepper. Leave them a aside while you tend to the marinade.
2. In a bowl, combine all the ingredients for the marinade together and mix well. Whisk with a fork or a whisk until it is well emulsified and pour it over the birds.
3. With your hands, and your hands only, rub the marinade over the birds like you are giving them a good massage. And now, let them marinade for at least 2 hours in the fridge.
4. Once they are well marinated, sear the pieces of chicken, Cornish Hens and quails in a hot pan until they are nice brown but do not cook them through. You will do that in the oven – this step is to ensure a nice browning color before roasting ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU DON’T HAVE TIME.
* The last thing you want to do is popping pieces of game birds in in different time intervals, in front of your guests, because they are different in sizes and have different cooking times. So, in browning I can control how much I want my larger birds cooked through so that they cook in the same time as the other smaller birds.
5. After searing the birds, place them back into the same roasting tray (yes with the marinade) and drape them with bacon. You want them to be kind of cooked in a confit style from the bacon fat and also keeps them from drying out. Roast them in the oven at 350F for 70 minutes. Let them rest after roasting for 15 mins before plating.
Parsnip and Cauliflower Puree (this can be made ahead of time)
1. In a pot, add 2 bay leaves, 1 teaspoon salt, garlic, all the cauliflower and parsnips and let it cook for 20 minutes or until the parsnips are soft.
2. Keep 1/4 cup of cooking water and drain the rest. Discard the bay leaves but keep the softened garlic cloves – they are great flavor components.
3. In a blender, put in the cooked cauliflower and parsnips in. Season with a bit of salt and pepper and add the milk and lemon juice. Blend until the puree is smooth, add a bit of the cooking water in to help things move along. Your end product should look like a nice fluffy mash potatoes.
Chop the lemon zest, garlic and basil leaves together until they are finely minced. This adds a great layer of flavor on top of your misto roasto. And need I add that the smell of this is just heavenly? 🙂
Assembly: If you remember, we have some nice crispy bacon from roasting the birds now. Chop them up for later.
1. In a large platter, smear a nice layer of parsnips and cauliflower puree to make a bed for the roasties.
2. Sprinkle with some chives (optional) and also halve of the chopped bacon bits.
3. Arrange the quails, Cornish Hens and chicken on the bed of pureed parsnips and cauliflower – arrange them as your see fit because any way you go, it’s going to turn heads when you bring this to the table 🙂
4. Spoon some of the gravy from the roasting pan over the top of the birds for a final glaze and then sprinkle with the rest of the bacon bits and gremolata on top.
5. Serve with love.
The great thing about serving a mixed roast is that the possibilities are endless. You can use any types of game meat on a bed of polenta, parsnips puree or even nice buttery mash potatoes for a one platter meal. Throw in some carrots and vegetables to roast together, if you like. As I said, the possibilities are endless and it is such a crowd pleaser! 🙂