Sometimes it's not enough just to cook the dinner properly. There's also the matter of presenting it properly. What we're talking about now is public relations. This is especially true of tonight's meal.
When the kids go into the standard "What's-for-dinner?" routine, you're not likely to say something so unwieldy as "Rock Cornish game hens in grenadine." You may even be tempted to take the easy way out and say, "chicken." Wrong! When in doubt, say "squab." Now a Rock Cornish game hen is not exactly a squab. Nor is it precisely a chicken. The difference between a squab and a chicken, that's public relations.
The Staples: Make sure these are all on hand: butter, sage and a lemon.
The Shopping List: Three Rock Cornish game hens; one quart juice; one small bottle grenadine syrup; two pounds fresh carrots; six celery stalks; two onions; one cucumber; three apples; parsley; one head lettuce; fresh dill; one small container sour cream; one large bag dry bread crumbs or stuffing mix; ice cream. This should be enough to feed a mob.
Which comes first, the chicken or the stuffing? Well, since the stuffing is the major culinary challenge facing you tonight, we'll begin with that. And with this cautionary note: If you have purchased frozen Rock Cornish game hens, you must allow several hours for thawing them. Otherwise there is not much you will be able to do with tonight's dinner, except maybe stick it in your highball.
5 p.m.: Melt 1/2-stick of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add two chopped onions and four chopped celery stalks and cook until tender. Place the dry bread crumbs - four or five cups of them - in a large bowl and add the cooked onion and celery. Peel and core the three apples, cut into small pieces and add to the mixture. Also add a large pinch of sage, a small handful of chopped parsley, some salt and pepper, the juice of one lemon. Now add enough apple juice to make the mixture moist and easily packed. Pack the mix into the body cavities of the three game hens. Leftover stuffing can be packed in metal foil and baked beside the game hens.
5:15 p.m.: Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees, Peel and slice the carrots.
5:30 p.m.: Place the three stuffed game hens in a shallow baking dish on a rack and paint them with grenadine syrup. Surround the game hens with mounds of sliced carrots dotted with butter and put the baking dish in the preheated oven.
Three or four times during the next hour, baste the birds with fresh coatings of grenadine syrup. At the same time, stir the carrots into the juices of the game hens.
6 p.m.: Now, while you have a few moments, put together the salad. Make sure the lettuce is rinsed free of any sand and patted dry with paper towels before being broken into bite-sized pieces. Peel and slice a cucumber. Add a couple of stalks of celery, sliced.
Mix the sour cream with a small handful of freshly chopped dill. (If fresh dill is not available, try a large pinch of dill seed.) Add some salt, pepper and a generous squeeze of lemon. You can, if you wish, substitute yogurt. (Danger! If using yogurt, make sure it is plain yogurt. There are few salad dressings less appetizing than one that is flavoured with both dill and, oh, boysenberry yogurt.)
6:20 p.m.: Check the game hens, making sure that neither birds nor carrots are drying out. Add grenadine syrup, if necessary.
6:30 p.m.: Unless you have a jeweler's eyepiece, you will not attempt to carve a game hen the way you might carve a turkey. Nor will you entertain separate orders for white or dark meat. The easiest way to serve the game hen is to cut each bird in half, leaving the stuffing intact, and arranging the carrots alongside. Incidentally, at this point it won't matter whether it's called chicken or squab. If you've done your part, it'll be called delicious.