Recipe courtesy of Chef Brad Long, Executive Chef, Air Canada Centre.This dish quite easy to prepare but requires a few more pots and pans than maybe the average meal demands. On the other hand, each component of the dish is straightforward and unembellished but when brought together on the plate, there is a lovely balance of the earthy lentils, sweet beets, sharply fresh greens and the quietly hearty poussins are all rounded up with the rich but simple sauce. The sequence requires you to put the beets on first and then get the birds in the oven. Next put the lentils on. Once you have the plates nearby (with the rest of the table set and ready to go). The beets will finish cooking and the lentils will be ready. By then, you will be removing the birds from the oven and you can make the sauce and allow the greens to share some heat on the oven. A bit of juggling, yes, but now that all parts are happening you can assemble the plate, starting with the lentils dead centre, spinach on top, beets placed close around the edge, the bird cut in half and arranged on top of the spinach with the sauce then being drizzled dead centre, allowing it to bathe everything on its inevitable journey to the plate.Note that each part (lentils, beets, birds, spinach) can be held in the pots and/or pan they were prepared in until you are ready for them. If they are left to rest on the top of the warm stove for a short period, everything will be fine – no worries, as long as there is no direct heat is applied. Yield is 4 servings.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Put a medium roasting pan in the preheated oven to heat.
Remove leaves from 1 to 2 sprigs of marjoram and finely chop.
In a large bowl combine the oil, salt, chopped garlic, vinegar, pepper and the chopped marjoram.
Evenly divide the apples and remaining whole marjoram sprigs and add into the cavity of each of the poussins.
Roll the birds in the oil and garlic mixture and put them in the preheated roasting pan.
Roast the hens approximately 40 to 50 minutes or until they are deep golden brown or read an internal temperature of 160 degrees F.
Remove the hens from the pan and cut them in half directly through the centre of the breast, discarding the apple and herbs.
Trim the bones slightly to make the poussin easier to eat.
Set aside the poussins in a warm place while you make the sauce from the pan drippings.
Drain the liquid from the pan into a gravy separator. (If you don’t have a gravy separator just use a cup and skim off the fat.) The fat will rise to the top and you can either pour out the good drippings from the bottom or skim the fat from the top.
Put the pan that was used to cook the poussins on medium heat and quickly sauté the shallots.
Turn the burner to high and add the wine, using the liquid and a wooden spoon to loosen all the bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Add the bay leaf and the separated “good drippings” and reduce for about 5 minutes.
Turn the heat off.
Stirring constantly, add the cold butter – you want the butter to thicken the sauce and not just melt all out, you want it to emulsify the sauce.
Add salt to taste and strain into a warmed gravy boat or a measuring cup or anything you can easily pour from.
Place the lentils in a medium pot and cover with a little more than twice their volume of cold water.
Add salt to taste and the mint.
Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, cooking the lentils until tender but firm, about 20 to 30 minutes.
Drain, discard the mint, check the seasoning, and divide lentils among 4 plates.
Wash the greens thoroughly and drain in a colander (don’t dry them too much as the water on them will be needed for their cooking). You can also substitute your favourite Chard instead of using spinach.
Heat a wide, shallow saucepan on medium-high heat, quickly add the greens, and cover.
The steam generated from the liquid that was left on the greens will wilt them quite quickly as long as they are covered.
When all the greens have completely wilted, add the butter, lemon juice and salt to taste.
Put the beets in a medium-sized pot and cover with a large amount of salted water.
Bring to a boil and continue boiling gently on medium heat for approximately one hour.
Drain the beets and, while holding the beet under a little cold running water, slip off the outer skins.
Cut the beets into 1/2-inch-thick batons.
Divide the lentils among four plates.
Put the spinach (or chard) on top and then the hen halves.
Spoon the sauce around the plate and on top.
As a simple garnish you can tie a few loops of marjoram together with a chive to rest on the top of the assembled dish – or not.