A taste of the South adds a winning note to flavorful Cornish hens.
8 tablespoons, or one stick, unsalted butter
1 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1 pound sweet Italian sausage with fennel, casing removed
6 sage leaves, minced
2 cups Granny Smith Apples, cored, unpeeled, diced
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup dried cherries or cranberries
1/2 cup apple juice or apple cider
4 cups crumbled cornbread or corn muffins
1 1/2 to 2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1. Melt butter in heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, sage, salt and pepper and sauté until soft, or about 5 minutes.
2. Add sausage; cook through until brown. Add apples, sauté until soft; add dried fruit and apple juice; reduce juice over medium-high heat. Taste for additional seasoning.
3. Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Let cool 10 minutes. Mix in cornbread; gradually add stock until mixture is moist and holds together when you press a bit between your fingers
4. Loosely stuff the hen cavities with dressing and roast accordingly.
Note: If you have more stuffing than you need for the hens, place it in a buttered baking dish and bake at 350 degrees F for about 20 minutes, or until golden and crisp on top.
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