Busy Little Honeybee


Not only do honeybees pollenate our crops, bringing the next round of fruits and vegetables, but they also produce a smooth golden nectar (honey) that enhances much of our cooking.  Pretty amazing accomplishment for a small insect buzzing along happily.  Here’s one of the culinary superstars now, taking nourishment not too far from the kitchen:Honeybee II Honey is one of the major components that coats the bird in today’s dish, a Lebanese inspiration, Bulgur-Stuffed Poussin with Preserved Lemon-Honey Glaze.  Chef Cara Chigazola-Tobin developed the recipe for her restaurant named, appropriately enough, Honey Road, and Food & Wine celebrates her efforts in its December 2018 number.

A poussin, by the way, is a young chicken, far too expensive and difficult to obtain for the home cook, making Cornish hens an obvious replacement.  The sauce lacquered on to the hens and which is served alongside for later delectation, is effectively a Lebanese barbecue preparation consisting mainly of drippings, saffron preserved lemon and, of course, honey.  This contributes a rich sweetness that amplifies beautifully similar flavors in the bird itself,  creating an exquisite depth.

Perhaps even better is the bulgur wheat mixture placed inside the hens as they cook.  The stuffing itself is very nearly vegetarian, deriving its substance largely from pistachios and toasted walnuts, and also dried apricots and cranberries:

Nuts and BerriesHere’s everything mixed together, just before it’s prepared for the oven:

Bulgur Stuffing

As mentioned, the stuffing is extraordinarily flavorful and satisfying, worthy of a meal by itself.  Quite a concession from a poultry, um, enthusiast.  The bulgur is tender and fluffy, particularly after it bakes, and the dried fruits give it a sweet-tart chewiness.  The nuts, meanwhile, soften a bit as they bake and provide a slight crunch and a delicate richness.  Superb!

Still, the hen is maybe a notch higher, and that is due largely to the highly complimentary honey glaze.  Once again, many thanks to the honeybee, whose pollen expeditions made most of the stuffing ingredients possible, and, of course, created the honey for the magnificent glaze.  Here’s to insect overachievement!

*****

Bulgur-Stuffed Poussin with Preserved Lemon-Honey Glaze

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (*1)
  • 3 and 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground pepper
  • 4 poussins, or 2 Cornish hens
  • 1/2 cup uncooked bulgur, rinsed in cold water and drained
  • 1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries (*2)
  • 1 and 1/4 cups chicken broth, divided
  • 1/4 cup roasted pistachios (*3)
  • 1/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (*4)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons thinly sliced preserved lemon peel (*5)
  • 2 tablespoons each fresh mint leaves and basil leaves, for garnish

In a medium bowl whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of the salt, coriander, cumin, ginger and pepper.  Sprinkle the birds with some more salt, then place them in a large zip-top bag.  Pour the marinade you just created over the poultry.  Force as much air as possible from the bag, seal the top, then massage the marinade into the birds.  Let stand at room temperature for two hours, or refrigerate overnight.

About an hour before the hens have finished marinating, make the stuffing.  In a medium bowl stir together the bulgur, apricots, cranberries and the remaining half-teaspoon of salt.

Set a small saucepan over a medium-high flame and pour in 3/4 cup of the broth.  Bring to simmer, then pour into the bowl holding the stuffing mixture.  Let stand until the broth has been absorbed, about an hour.  Fluff with a fork, then stir in the walnuts, pistachios and parsley.  Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 500°.  Remove the poultry from the marinade and pat it dry.  Discard the marinade.  Stuff the hens evenly with the bulgur mixture, then loosely tie the legs with kitchen twine and tuck back the wings.  Place birds on a wire rack set over a shallow, rimmed baking tray.

Roast in the oven until lightly browned, about 15 minutes.  Without opening the oven door, decrease the temperature to 350° and cook poultry for another 25 minutes.

Transfer birds to a platter and cover them loosely with foil to stay warm.  Meanwhile, remove the baking tray from the oven.  Remove the rack and pour the remaining half-cup of broth into the tray.  Using a wooden spoon, scrape the tray bottom to dislodge any baked-on drippings, and let sit for five minutes.  Pour the broth-drippings mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a small saucepan. (*6)

Add the honey and the saffron to the saucepan and place over a medium-low flame.  Add the lemon peel and continue cooking, stirring often, until sauce is a bit syrupy, about five minutes.

To serve, distribute the stuffing evenly among the plates.  Place one bird on each plate, if using poussins, or split each hen in half lengthwise, if working with Cornish hens.  Spoon some of the glaze over each bird, then set out the rest for guests to add as desired.  Garnish with mint and basil leaves.

NOTES:

1 –  This works out to about two lemons.

2 – Thank goodness.  I worried the recipe would call for raisins, which I…don’t care for.  That the instructions specify cranberries suggests the original Lebanese preparation uses barberries.  While the latter are available from specialty markets (and this journal has used barberries before), cranberries are cheaper and are much, much easier to acquire.

3 – The recipe suggests chopping the pistachios too, though I think they’re more appealing texturally when they’re left intact.  Besides, the cooking process softens them noticeably.

4 – Maybe, use cilantro instead.  My normal suggestion is these cases, but why not?  Cilantro isn’t nearly as bitter.

5 – If you can’t obtain preserved lemons, a workable improvisation is to use a similar quantity of fresh lemon peel, which is then moderately salted.

6 – The original recipe doesn’t mention straining the drippings, but doing so makes a much smoother and more visually appealing sauce.  That’s why you let the broth sit for five minutes, instead of pouring it into the saucepan immediately.  The extra time gives the drippings more opportunity to disintegrate in the broth, adding goodness.  Plus, filtering makes the sauce a touch healthier too, as it removes the solid fats.

 

30 thoughts on “Busy Little Honeybee

    1. Much appreciated, Tamara!

      If you can swing it, try to find local honey. In addition to being magnificent, and to helping you to support your area’s economy, “local” honey helps to build up your immunity to allergies. No kidding, it really does!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Oh, your stuffing is wonderfully delicious! You saved me a treat to google by stating what poussin was, aye! You have REALLY explained how to cook this on, and I appreciate, looks delicious! Oh, and the cutlery is very fancy. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really tickles me you notice the “props,” Angela!

      Within a year, you’ll start to see even more flashes of (coordinated) color and thematic settings. Extravagant are the plans to enhance the dinnerware, cutlery, linens, etc. Can’t wait to begin putting them on display!

      Oh, poussins were available, but at $30 apiece, they were far too pricey, even for as pretentious a poultry fiend as am I. After all, fowl is fowl, and Cornish hens are as good as anything else.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Great news, Angela!

        I’m thrifty, meaning I never would think of wasting the dinnerware and linens I already bought. Thus, it’ll take me until next summer to burn thorough the “meh” stuff. Then come the jewels.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. What a combination of flavors! A party in the mouth. It’s also nice to know that there’s a way to cook bulgur so that it is soft. Of course, the way you describe everything is really the best part.

    We would have one terrible planet without all the honeybees to give us sweet nectar and pollinate our flowers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your thoughts are much appreciated, JoAnn!

      Bulgur favors an unbusy cooking technique. Once the water’s up to a low boil, cover the pot and take the heat as low as it’ll go. Then leave everything alone for fifteen minutes.

      At that point, turn off the heat, remove the lid and replace it with a dishtowel, then replace the lid. Seat it tightly on the pan, thus “sealing” it with the towel. Find something else to do for five minutes, then fluff (and toss) the bulgur with a fork. You and your guests will enjoy light, soft pillows of bulgur.

      Oh, my friend, you hardly need recruit me for Team Honeybee; I’m president of the state chapter, after all! In fact, the cheerful little zippers make not only flowers possible, but everything the flowers bring, which includes all our fruits and vegetables. Then, in quite possibly the sweetest bonus of all, they give us honey.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Most definitely, Jenn!

      You have a vibrant, colorful imagination, and it gratifies me to read this week’s selection pairs well with it. May the pictures and descriptions within stir your creativity. Ulterior motives on my part, of course, as your happiness here leads to electrifying discoveries and sparking writing on your own site. This is my thank-you, and a payment in advance.

      Among everything else bees make possible are the fruits and vegetables we love. After all, the flowers that become tomatoes, peaches and almonds (etc., etc.) don’t pollenate themselves, right?

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Much appreciated, Rachel!

      Until the last year or so, my newness and yours were exactly equal. Since then, though, a couple opportunities have developed.

      Sincerely, I still prefer rice to bulgur, but part of that favoritism is because my mom really craved rice when she was expecting me. The good part is, just like rice, bulgur accepts gratefully the herbs in which it cooks and any sauces that accompany it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hehe. But which one of you was really craving rice?
        I have a fondness for rice myself, and while trying different things is always interesting, the question does beg to be asked: can the bulgur be exchanged for rice?

        Sorry for the lateness, once again. I wouldn’t make a good busy little bee, I think.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. No need to explain, Rachel. You’ve been busy somewhere, just not here. My God, how narcissistic would I have to be not to recognize that?

        Structurally, bulgur and rice are interchangeable, insofar that they’re somewhat similar in preparation, and both have a wonderful ability to absorb the flavors around them. However, they have entirely different taste profiles that certainly are noticeable. Bulgur is hearty, whereas rice has a “cleaner” taste. Both have advantages, but in distinct situations.

        Certainly, you can use rice instead of bulgur, but be prepared for an experience different from what you would’ve had otherwise. Both will “work” with the ingredients provided, though.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Fear, Rachel? I’ll drop the topic if you wish, but we always find a way to discuss Everything-but-Food here, don’t we? I have a box of really good chocolates right here, just waiting for a conversation.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. So we do; my apologies. Those chocolates sound good… Oh wait, were they supposed to be unfortunate sacrifices, or conversation pieces? Because they’re well on their way to being the former.

        On the topic of fear, I’ve just been… Let’s say “timid.” I’m afraid of failing, and so I procrastinate things, which gives me more reason to doubt myself, and so on it goes.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. They’re meant to be inspirations, encouraging good conversations. In which case, mission accomplie! How would you rate them? “Seven” or higher, I’ll buy more.

        Oh Rachel, I know exactly how you feel about being afraid of taking a risk. I wish I could say I’ve overcome that inertia, yet still, it persists. Not nearly as bad as it used to be, though.

        The thing people like you and me should remember, is that while things rarely work out exactly how we would’ve liked, they’re never as bad as we feared, either. Just different. It’s that way for everyone, actually.

        Being resourceful, as our species is, we adapt circumstances to new conditions. This is how we progress.

        Would you look at that? We just had a “Writer in Retrospect” conversation right here on “Terrified Amateur!”

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Oh, an “eleven,” certainly! I can’t resist a good chocolate. Or even a bad chocolate, possibly. But then again, I can’t fathom there being such a thing.

        Good advice.

        And yes, I suppose we did. Sorry for the transplant. 😅

        Liked by 1 person

      7. No explanation needed, Rachel. You’re read the blog before, and you know how much imports fascinate me. I mean, I drive a Mazda, for crying out loud. Besides, this neighborhood could use a little gentrification.

        Oh, if it’s good chocolate you’re after, read on, my friend. As the weeks ahead become months, become years, Godiva, Valrhona, Barry Callebaut, etc. all will make appearances. That’s the plan, at least. Thus, in addition to the improved settings, you also will get the best in chocolate too. Get that imagination humming!

        By the way, neither here nor there, but I’m not one of those people who disdains everything American. That smugness annoys me no end, actually. Truth is, we (Americans) do most things quite well. The best of some things, though, still is found abroad. Point is, I prefer to use American whenever practical, but just as important is to take advantage of the best available.

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Indeed, you’ve had recipes from so many different countries on here, you could probably advertise as a travel blog. 😜
        I don’t see appreciation of other cultures as disloyalty to one’s own, and I suspected you of no smugness.

        And Felix, I am always after good chocolate.

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Many thanks, Rachel. I appreciate your compliment!

        Plenty of stops ahead on the itinerary. As I’ve misplaced the bathtub of hundred-dollar-bills I use to light my cigars (that is, I would if I smoked), herewith is travel blog for those of us on a budget. Posts 1 through 147,655 will cover food and drink.

        After good chocolate, eh, Rachel? Then you’ve come to the right place! Varieties as yet unexamined will have their moments. Temptations await in their dozens. In their hundreds, if you’ll take them.

        You know summer is the season to drink in fresh fruit, but chocolate treats hold sway elsewhere. There are other offerings, naturally, but chocolate is the first among equals during the ‘R’ months.

        For every three weeks of “Yeah, yeah, whatever…” you get a monthly dessert. Hope you saved room!

        Liked by 1 person

      10. Then, of course, there’s reading’s inevitable result, dreaming.

        Once you dream, you hope. After a while, you plan. Eventually, you do.

        See, Rachel? That chocolate’s as good as yours! Yeah, like I didn’t know that’s what filled your dreams.

        Liked by 1 person

      11. Naturally, Rachel.

        Please, allow this layperson to retain at least some romantic notion of the poet’s creativity. Let me think at least one or two of your poems every month arise from your own dreamtime. At least one morning here and there brings frantic scribbling, hoping not to forget what your mind just played minutes earlier.

        Your own “Xanadu,” except without, you know, all that opium.

        Liked by 1 person

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