For the Quince Butter Sauce
4 fresh quinces, peeled and cored
½ cup orange blossom honey*
½ cup brown sugar
4 cups Champagne
½ cup cream
8 oz. unsalted butter, melted
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the Game Hens
8 small Cornish game hens
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 zucchini, peeled and chopped (or other seasonal vegetable)
2 Tbsp. freshly chopped thyme
½ cup white wine
4 cups chicken stock
8 oz. unsalted butter
1 DAY BEFORE SERVING
• Make the quince butter sauce: Combine the first 4 ingredients in a sauce pot and bring to a simmer. Cook until the quinces are soft.
• Add the cream and cook until the liquid has reduced by half.
• Slowly whisk in the melted butter and simmer until fully incorporated.
• Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
• Allow to cool completely, then transfer to a container fitted with an airtight lid. Place in the refrigerator overnight.
DAY OF SERVING
• Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
• Generously season each bird with salt and pepper.
• Truss each bird: Lay the hen on a cutting board breast-side up. Secure the wings under the breast. Place a foot-long piece of kitchen string behind the neck. Pull up on the string to plump the breast. Cross the string under the breast (above the cavity, between the legs). Wrap each end around the nearest leg and tie tightly. Cut any remaining string.
• Working in batches, drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan set over high heat. Brown the underside of the hens, then flip and brown the other side. Remove to a roasting pan.
• Add the shallots, zucchini and thyme to the saute pan and saute for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove to the roasting pan.
• Add the white wine and chicken stock to the saute pan. Stir in the butter until it melts.
• Pour the liquid over the game hens.
• Cover the roasting pan with foil and place it in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until desired doneness.
• Meanwhile, remove the quince butter sauce from the refrigerator and place in a sauce pot set over low heat until heated through.
• Remove the birds from the oven and let rest for at least 5 minutes.
• To serve, spoon the sauce in a circle surrounding the inside of the plate. Place the zucchini in the center of the circle and top with the bird.
* Available at Straub’s, straubs.com