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Hen for the Holiday

Bennet is food editor of the Chicago Sun-Times and a cookbook editor.

This is a festive dish for holiday entertaining. Couscous would be a good accompaniment, as would rice or polenta.

To round out the menu, serve squash with cinnamon and maple syrup, a tossed salad with vinaigrette dressing, and orange sherbet for dessert.

CORNISH HENS WITH APRICOTS AND CRANBERRIES

1/2 cup dried apricots

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1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup dry white wine

Olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

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1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 rounded teaspoon grated ginger root

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

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1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

2 Cornish hens

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Cooked couscous or rice, optional

Combine apricots and cranberries in small bowl. Add wine and let stand to soak 1 hour. Drain, reserving wine.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in medium pan. Add onion, garlic and ginger root and saute 5 minutes over medium heat. Add reserved wine, dried fruit, cinnamon, tomato sauce and brown sugar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer 5 minutes. Pour mixture into small roasting pan.

Rinse hens with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Discard any obvious fat. Sprinkle hen cavities to taste with salt and pepper. Brush skins lightly with olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Arrange hens over sauce in pan. Bake at 375 degrees until golden, basting occasionally with pan juices, 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Serve hens over bed of couscous. Makes 2 servings.

Note : Dried cranberries are available in gourmet food stores. Otherwise, use raisins, currants or dried fruit of choice.

Each serving contains about:

566 calories; 882 mg sodium; 84 mg cholesterol; 25 grams fat; 46 grams carbohydrates; 32 grams protein; 2.7 grams fiber; 41% calories from fat.

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