1 1/2 pounds squash, such as kury, butternut or pumpkin, diced and peeled
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), for drizzling
Salt and pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 1 1/2-pound Cornish hens, slit lengthwise (your butcher can do this for you or you can do it yourself with a very sharp knife)
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 1/2 teaspoons ground fennel or ground coriander
1 tablespoon paprika
6 tablespoons butter, divided
3-4 small ribs celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 apples, peeled and diced, such as Macoun or Northern Spies
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1/2 cup apple cider
2 cups chicken stock, divided
4 slices lightly toasted whole wheat bread, chopped
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup orange marmalade
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Pre-heat the oven to 450˚F.
Arrange the squash on a baking sheet and dress with a liberal drizzle of EVOO. Season with salt, pepper and a little freshly grated nutmeg. Roast in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until very tender and brown at the edges, turning once.
Pat the hens dry and arrange on a baking sheet with a rim. Combine the thyme, orange zest, fennel or coriander and paprika. Drizzle the hens with EVOO and season with salt, pepper and the spice blend. Roast in the oven for 35 minutes, or until the juices run clear.
Meanwhile, melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the celery, onion and apples, then season with salt and pepper. Cook for 6-7 minutes, then add the cranberries, cider and 1 cup chicken stock. Simmer for 5 minutes more, then combine with the bread and turn off the heat. Gently combine the roast squash with the stuffing. The stuffing should be slightly moist but not gummy; add a little extra stock, if necessary. Turn off the heat.
In small saucepot, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and whisk in the flour. Cook for 1 minute, then whisk in the remaining stock, salt, pepper, marmalade and Worcestershire sauce. Add any pan drippings from the hens.
Serve the hens with a large portion of squash-stuffing and gravy on top.