Dalis Chea began his culinary education working at his parents' bakery as a child. Chea's formal training includes graduating from the Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts Program in Portland and working under executive chef Greg Atkinson at Canlis and chef Kevin Davis at Oceanaire. As executive chef of Herban Feast Catering, Chea helped build the company into one of Seattle's largest catering businesses. This summer, Herban Feast launched Fresh Bistro in West Seattle, where Chea helms the kitchen and crafts a menu of seasonally inspired dishes with a wide influence of flavors. Here, he shares his recipe for star anise-brined Cornish hens with quince reduction.
2 cups vegetable stock, warm
½ cup kosher salt
1 cup ice water
2 pieces star anise
2 tablespoons candied ginger
Quince Reduction (maybe be prepared ahead and reheated)
1 quince, seeded with skin on, medium dice
½ cup sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup chicken stock
2 Cornish game hens, each split in half
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper to taste
To brine the birds: In a gallon-size bucket or other large container, combine warm vegetable stock, salt, star anise, and candied ginger, and stir to dissolve salt. Add ice water and game hens to the brine and place in refrigerator for no longer than 3 hours.
To make the quince reduction: Put sugar in a medium-sized saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until the sugar begins to caramelize, stirring slowly to keep the sugar from burning. Once the sugar turns golden brown, add the quince and cook for 3-5 minutes. Add vinegar and chicken stock and simmer sauce until it is reduced by 25 percent. You will end up with a syrup-like sauce. Let it cool, then transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Pass sauce through a strainer and set aside.
Before removing the hens from the brine, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Pat hens completely dry with paper towels and season lightly with salt and pepper. In a hot medium-size sauté pan over medium-high heat, drizzle oil, and place hens in the hot pan, breast-side down, and fry for 2 minutes. Turn birds breast-side up and sprinkle the thyme on the hens. Add butter to the pan and put it in the oven. Cook, basting occasionally with the butter, until the hens reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees, removing from the oven and letting rest for 3-5 minutes. Place hens on plates, breast-side up, and drizzle reheated sauce over the top.