Marge Roach wrote to us two weeks ago in a panic after she realized she'd lost her recipe for hoisin hens. This recipe, originally published in 1993 and often requested, was included in an article on the wonders of hoisin sauce that appeared last year.

Hoisin sauce is a sweet, spicy sauce commonly used in Chinese cuisine and best known for its appearance in Peking Duck. However, few people realize how versatile it is. It's wonderful as a quick marinade for meat and poultry. You can also mix it with a little honey and slather it over a chicken prior to roasting.

Here's the Hoisin Hens recipe and another using the same sauce. Last we heard, Roach was off to the grocery store to pick up some Cornish hens!

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Hoisin Hens

(4 servings)

The hens are cooked in a thick, dark, hoisin-flavored sauce and come out looking and smelling as good as they taste. Serve the hens on a bed of rice or with thin pasta tossed with sesame oil (use 1 tablespoon oil per 12 ounces of pasta).

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 Cornish game hens, each split in half

1 cup diced onions

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger root

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup hoisin sauce

1/4 cup dry sherry

1/4 teaspoon crushed hot pepper flakes

1/2 cup chicken stock or broth

Place a wok or heavy pot that will just hold the hens over high heat and add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the hens, breast-side down, reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook for 3 minutes. Turn the chicken and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Stir in the onion, garlic, ginger, soy and hoisin sauces, sherry, pepper flakes and chicken stock or broth. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 40 minutes, turning the chicken after 20 minutes.

Remove the hens to a serving platter. If the sauce isn't thick and syrupy, continue to cook it, uncovered, for a few more minutes. Serve the hens topped with the sauce.

Per serving: 391 calories, 30 gm protein, 15 gm carbohydrates, 22 gm fat, 52 mg cholesterol, 2 gm saturated fat, 1,477 mg sodium

Chinese Barbecued Chicken

(4 servings)

A perennial favorite, this is also known as Nina Simonds's no-brainer dinner. Simonds, the author of "A Spoonful of Ginger" (Knopf, 1999), says that this dish fills your house with a delicious aroma. This all-purpose sauce is great on pork spareribs as well.

1 fryer or broiler chicken (about 3 1/2 pounds), split into halves (or you can use chicken pieces)

1/2 cup hoisin sauce

3 tablespoons soy sauce

3 tablespoons rice wine or sake

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons ketchup

2 tablespoons minced garlic

Rinse the chicken, drain thoroughly and place in a bowl.

In a small bowl, combine the hoisin and soy sauces with the rice wine, sugar, ketchup and garlic. Pour the mixture over the chicken and spread it all over the outside and inside of the chicken. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight if possible.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Arrange the chicken skin-side down on the baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, turn over and bake until crisp and brown, another 30 minutes. Let the chicken cool slightly before cutting into desired serving pieces.

Per serving: 446 calories, 51 gm protein, 13 gm carbohydrates, 20 gm fat, 148 mg cholesterol, 6 gm saturated fat, 879 mg sodium

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