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Sink your teeth into hen with polenta

The fall weather is unseasonably warm in Chicago this week, but by the weekend the temperatures will have dropped significantly, so throw on a wool scarf and join us for a month of recipes from the Windy City!  Cuisine in Chicago has progressed by leaps and bounds since the days of John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd’s sketch on “Saturday Night Live” — “Cheezborger, cheezborger, cheezborger”
/ Source: TODAY

The fall weather is unseasonably warm in Chicago this week, but by the weekend the temperatures will have dropped significantly, so throw on a wool scarf and join us for a month of recipes from the Windy City! 

Cuisine in Chicago has progressed by leaps and bounds since the days of John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd’s sketch on “Saturday Night Live” — “Cheezborger, cheezborger, cheezborger” —  the skit inspired by  a real Chicago restaurant, the Billy Goat Tavern. 

There isn’t a cheeseburger in sight as we head to our first stop in our monthlong visit to Chicago. The delicious recipe for galletto ripieno alla papalina, which is deboned Cornish hen stuffed with polenta, porcini mushrooms, chestnuts, mild sausage, black truffles and served with fingerling potatoes, is a perfect example of the sophisticated, regional Italian dishes on executive chef Mark Sparacino’s menu.

Prosecco is a chic yet unpretentious white-tablecloth restaurant in the heart of Chicago's River North gallery district. The name Prosecco is taken from a grape and a wine. This restaurant lives up to its name by being Chicago’s first proseccheria — and offering the largest selection of Italian sparkling wine in Chicago. The art-filled restaurant is perfectly at ease in its gallery-district setting with décor inspired by Venetian art.

About the chef: Mark Sparacino is executive chef and partner at Prosecco Ristorante as well as his namesake restaurant, Sparacino Ristorante. Beginning his career more than 20 years ago after attending Chicago’s Loyola University, Mark realized his true love was in the kitchen. His hands-on knowledge was augmented by years of class work at the esteemed Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, where Mark took coursework in soups, stocks and sauces, charcuterie, desserts, chocolates and catering. He has studied wine from around the world one vineyard at a time, as well as taken courses at the Chicago Wine School. Adding to his repertoire, Sparacino decided to combine his two passions — fine dining and travel — with several seasons in Aspen, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the British West Indies.


710 North Wells Street

Chicago, IL 60610

312 951 9500

Cornish hen with polenta (galletto ripieno alla papalina) is served at Prosecco for $23.

Cornish hen with polentaMark Sparacino, Prosecco Ristorante

6 restaurant servings

For potatoes:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Mix all the ingredients and place them on a heavy baking pan.

Roast for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

For hens:

Rinse the hens and pat them dry with paper towels.

Remove the sausage meat from the casing and break it; you should have 1 1/2 cups. Combine the sausage with 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large frying pan and sauté over medium heat until browned (2-3 minutes), stirring frequently with a wooden spoon or spatula. Stir in 2 tablespoons of chicken broth and sauté. After a few minutes, remove sausage and set aside. Remove pan from heat.

Mix remaining broth into the meat juices on the skillet.

Dice the bread and polenta — you should have 6 cups. Stir in and let it absorb the broth and juices for 2-3 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. If you are using fresh chestnuts, score them, put them on a baking tray and roast, flipping several times, for about 15 minutes. You can also grill them until tender for 10-12 minutes. Let them cool. With a paring knife, peel and halve them, discarding the hairy inner skin. If you are using canned chestnuts, rinse, pat dry and halve them.

Soak the dry mushrooms in a small bowl of warm water for 15-20 minutes; when they are tender use a slotted spoon to remove them from the bowl. Wipe them carefully with paper towels to absorb excess liquid. With your fingers, clean off any remaining soil. Cut away and discard any tough parts or imperfections. Filter the soaking water through a strainer lined with paper towel or coffee filter and set aside. Cut the mushrooms into rough 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces.

Combine the bread, polenta, egg, chestnuts, mushrooms, 2 tablespoons of the strained mushroom water, a generous pinch of nutmeg, sage and sausage in a large mixing bowl and season generously with salt and pepper.

If you are using a fresh truffle, brush it with a scrub brush, eliminating dust or dirt. Rinse it under cold water and pat dry. Remove any imperfections and slice the truffle into slivers. Add three-quarters of the slices to the stuffing mixture.

If you are using truffle oil, pour in about 2 tablespoons. Mix gently with a spatula or wooden spoon.

With your fingertips, slide the remaining truffle slivers between the skin and flesh of the hens. If you are using truffle oil, drip the remaining oil under and over the skin of the hens.

With a spoon and your fingers, fill the hen cavities front and back with stuffing. Tie with kitchen twine. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Drizzle the hens with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle a small pinch each of salt and pepper

Put the hens in large skillet. Sauté over medium heat until golden brown, then place them in a roasting pan. Roast for 25-35 minutes, basting occasionally with juices and the remaining strained mushroom water. Turn the hens halfway through cooking. Cook until instant-read thermometer reaches 165 degrees. Take them out of the pan and let them rest in a warm area over stove for 10 minutes.

Deglaze the pan with red wine and reduce with pan drippings to form a sauce. To serve remove the kitchen twine, cut the hen on a bias, position in center of plate, circle with fingerling potatoes, lightly spoon with red wine reduction and serve.

2755755260481604826066220 ounce cornish game hens, partially de-boned66 20-ounce Cornish game hens, partially debonedsweet italian sausage8ounce8 ounces sweet Italian sausageextra virgin olive oil3tablespoon3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oilchicken broth1cup1 cup chicken brothstale bread4ounce4 ounces stale bread8-10 fresh chestnuts, or 1 (28-ounce) can chestnuts packed in water, draineddried porcini (about 2 cups)2ounce2 ounces dried porcini (about 2 cups)cooked polenta cooled and cubed4ounce4 ounces of cooked polenta, cooled and cubedwarm water1cup1 cup warm waterlarge egg11 large eggPinch of nutmegleaves of rough chopped fresh sage66 leaves of rough-chopped fresh sageKosher salt and freshly ground black pepperlarge black truffle or three tablespoons truffle oil11 large black truffle or three tablespoons truffle oilfingerling potatoes, cut into medium cubes1.5pound1 1/2 pounds fingerling potatoes, cut into medium cubesgarlic, finely minced2clove2 cloves of garlic, finely mincedspring of fresh rosemary, finely chopped11 spring of fresh rosemary, finely choppedSalt and pepper to tasteextra virgin olive oil4tablespoon4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

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