mini cocettes

Christmas is a time of festivities. One such tradition in our home is baking  Cornish game hens with HB’s fabulous stuffing! Forgive me if I use the term Gamish Corn hens. Unfortunately I made that tongue slip the other day and it seems to have be sticking. HB even suggest we “stew our duffing” after preparing the birds! Very funny, my mister main culinary expert!

This year we plan to enjoy dinner with our son and his family on Christmas day, so we thought individual tiny hens with stuffing baked in these adorable Le Creuset mini cocottes would be just perfect for the two of us! The red and green mini baking dishes work perfectly with our Christmas theme.

Cornish game hens are so easy to bake.  We suggest you thaw them under cold water – season to taste, bake in 350 degree oven and baste with melted butter.  Bake until instant-read thermometer inserted in breast reads 180 degrees (approximately 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours for four hens).

 Stuffing ingredients:
Note 1: You will need less stuffing depending on the number of guests. We adjusted our original turkey stuffing to fit a smaller quantity. In addition, baking the stuffing in the individual mini cocottes enhances the celebratory mood of our Christmas Eve dinner!
  • 1 lb. fresh chestnuts (not indicative of end quantity; often times some chestnuts are unusable after roasting)
  • 1-8oz can sliced water chestnuts
  • 1 cup shelled pine nuts
  • 4-oz (1/2 stick) butter
  • 2  lbs. Jimmy Dean “regular” sausage
  • 1 lb. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1-1/2 cups celery, chopped
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 8 cups dry French bread cubes, unseasoned
  • 1/4 cup snipped parsley
  • 1-1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 qt. half and half 
  • Salt
  • To roast chestnuts, slash shells in an X pattern with a sharp knife to avoid exploding. Roast on a baking pan in a 400° oven for 24 minutes, cool. Peel and coarsely chop. Set aside. Note: The amount used in the recipe will depend on your taste for chestnuts. Suggested quantity: 1-1/2 cups.
  • Roast pine nuts on baking sheet at 300° for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and set aside.
  •  In skillet, sauté mushrooms in butter until liquid completely absorbed. Set aside.
  • Break sausage into small pieces, in large skillet cook until completely brown. Reserve at least one tablespoon drippings.  Cool sausage, transfer to food processor, chop coarsely. Set aside.
  • In same skillet cook garlic, onion and celery in reserved drippings till tender but not brown. Remove from skillet.
  • In large bowl combine the chestnuts, water chestnuts, pine nuts, sausage, vegetable mixture, bread cubes, the parsley, poulty seasoning, thyme, pepper, and dash salt. Drizzle light cream over mixture, toss lightly until blended and well moistened an and mixture holds together.
  • Spoon mixture lightly into neck cavity of turkey; pull the neck skin to the back of the bird and fasten securely with a skewer. Lightly spoon remaining mixture into body cavity, fasten with skewers.  (Bake any additional dressing in casserole during final 45 minutes of roasting time.) Tie turkey legs to the tail. Brush turkey with melted butter. Place bird breast side up, on a rack in a shallow baking pan. Roast, uncovered, in a 325°F oven until internal thermometer registers 180°F. When turkey is done cover lightly with foil and let stand 20 minutes before carving.
Note 2: The dressing recipe quantities is adequate for stuffing an 18-20 lb. turkey.  Be sure to use a large (covered) circular casserole dish to bake any excess amount in during the last 45 minutes of roasting of the bird. Follow separate commercial poultry roasting instructions.

And now, I want to put in a plug for the lovely Mini Cocotte Cookbook that is available through Le Creuset. I promise you, it will not disappoint!

HB and I wish you a very Merry Christmas… a Happy Hanukkah… a Happy Kwanzaa… or whatever you may be celebrating during this marvelous time of year when we try just a bit harder to love our fellow man. It’s this spirit of caring and giving, that  becomes a true mark of our humanity! I’m grateful to each of you, my readers!