Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Last Wife Of Henry VIII...Food For Thought

"The Last Wife of Henry VIII", by Carolly Erickson isn't the last book I have read, but it is the one that first came into my mind for the new Food For Thought series. This new site is the brainchild of Jain at Once in a Blue Moon. Jain has creatively combined her avid reading with food blogging. In her words, Food For Thought is "where pages from your book magically mix with the kitchen and your camera..." I have always loved reading historical novels as they bring history and people to life. "The Last Wife of Henry VIII" begins when Catherine Parr is a fresh 7 year old in the retinue of Henry's first wife, Queen Catherine of Aragon. As we move through Catherine Parr's life and loves, she watches the fates of Henry VIII's wives. They have been described, in order, as "divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived". Catherine Parr is the survivor, but mainly because Henry died during their marriage. Before their marriage, she rued his attention since it would almost certainly mean death and at the very least unhappiness if they married. They of course did marry, at Henry's request. There was never a choice when Henry wanted something or someone. The power and gluttony of Henry VIII knew no bounds as he changed the course of political and religious history. The marriage of Henry and Catherine Parr was celebrated in the extravagant and grand style of the King, with an underlying fear of her fate. Carolly Erickson tells this part of history as if she had been there to witness it all. I definitely recommend this book, as an escape read with the reality of history.The Kings court often celebrated with game and fish, served on large shiny silver trays. I made a Cornish Game Hen with a Rice Stuffing. I put in dried cherries, apricots and a peppery herb mix. The sweet fruit of the Queen and the peppery spice of the King mingle well together. And it had to have some wild rice, as well! I served it on a large silver tray with a reminder of the fate of previous wives in the background. And,'ll need a nice sharp knife for the carving. Cornish Game Hen with Rice, Mushroom and Dried Fruit Stuffing

1 1/2-1 3/4 pound Cornish hen, rinsed and patted dry inside and out

For the stuffing:

2 tablespoons brandy
1/4 cup dried and pitted, tart Montmorency cherries (unsweetened)

1/4 cup dried apricots, rough chopped in 1/4 inch dice

1 tablespoon olive oil

8 ounces Baby Bella mushrooms, wiped clean and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
3 cups cooked, mixed brown and wild rice
1/4 teaspoon dried herb de Provence
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon pink peppercorns*

1/16 teaspoon ground nutmeg

dash of cayenne pepper, (optional)

salt and pepper
*may substitute 1 teaspoon (or to taste), coarsely ground black pepper

Soak the cherries and dried apricots in the brandy until plump, about 2 hours.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the onion, mushrooms and garlic. Saute until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms are cooked, about 10 minutes. Add the plumped dried fruits into the mushroom onion mixture and stir. Cool to room temperature. In a large bowl mix all of the stuffing ingredients together and lightly stuff the inside of the Cornish hen. Place remaining stuffing in a medium baking dish. Put the hen on top and sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and a little salt. Lightly cover any exposed stuffing with aluminum foil. Roast in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 1-1/2 hours, until the temperature if the hen is at 180 degrees (internal temperature) and it is golden brown. Check while roasting and cover any parts that are getting too brown with aluminum foil. When done remove from oven and let rest for about 10 minutes before carving.

Garnish with fresh cherries, apricots and fresh rosemary sprigs, if desired.

Serves 4.

Cornish Game Hen with Rice, Mushroom and Dried Fruit Stuffing recipe, click here.

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