1/2 teaspoon coarse pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 tablespoons peanut oil, if needed


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For the stuffing, in a large, non-stick skillet, over medium high, toast bulgur, stirring occasionally, about 7 minutes, until it makes a popping sound and is lightly browned. Transfer to a bowl and cool slightly.

In a saucepan, bring chicken (or turkey) broth and 1 teaspoon salt to boil. Stir in toasted bulgur. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes. Drain bulgur in a strainer when tender if there's still some cooking liquid in pan. Spread cooked bulgur into a baking sheet to cool.

While bulgur cools, in a large, non-stick skillet, over medium, heat 2 teaspoons of the reserved bacon fat. Add onions and celery, stirring until onions are softened Transfer to a large bowl. Add apricots, sage, pepper, cooked bacon and cooled bulgur. Taste for seasonings.

For the hens, heat oven 350 degrees. Rinse hens inside and out; remove giblets, if any, and discard. Pat dry. Use about 3/4 cup of the stuffing for each bird. Use kitchen twine to tie up wings and legs, if desired. Arrange hens, breast side up, in large roasting pan. Brush generously with some of the melted butter. Combine paprika, thyme, garlic powder and pepper. Sprinkle some onto each hen. Tent roasting pan with foil. Place in oven and roast for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat some chicken broth and when hens have roasted for 30 minutes, baste with warm broth. Re-cover, return to oven, and roast 30 minutes longer. Baste again. Roast 20 minutes longer. Remove from oven, remove foil, baste with pan juices and roast about 20 minutes longer to brown. Thermometer inserted in thickest part of a thigh should read 175 degrees. Remove hens from pan to a large platter, cover with a damp kitchen cloth, then the foil tent you used for roasting. This will keep them moist as they cool enough to cut.

For the vegetables, raise oven temperature to 400 degrees. Pour off (and save) all but a thin film of the roasting pan juices. Arrange vegetables in pan. Combine salt, black pepper, garlic powder and cayenne and sprinkle over vegetables. Roast, turning gently, but often, for about 45 minutes, until tender. If they are sticking to the pan, move the veggies aside and use a paper towel to wipe some peanut oil onto the bottom of the pan. If they are becoming overbrown, add some of the pan juices and tent with foil until about 5 minutes before they're done. Remove foil for last minutes of roasting.

To serve, on one or two platters, arrange hens (cut in half lengthwise) and surround with roasted vegetables. Garnish with parsley sprigs or pieces of curly kale.

Apple crisp

We use McIntosh apples because they're sweeter than a lot of apples, and they become meltingly tender in the oven. If you wish, try galas instead. You can do the crisp the morning of, then gently reheat after the hens and veggies are out of the oven.

1 1/2 cups dried cranberries

1 large cinnamon stick

1 1/4 cups water

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup firmly-packed light brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 stick unsalted butter, cut into bits

12 McIntosh apples

Whipped cream, ice cream, warm caramel sauce, etc., for serving, optional

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray-coat or butter a 9- x 13-inch baking dish.

In a small saucepan, simmer dried cranberries and cinnamon stick in water for 10 minutes. Drain cranberries; remove cinnamon stick.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, brown and salt. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter or two knives, until mixture resembles coarse meal, toss well.

Peel, core and slice apples thinly. Toss apples with cranberries and arrange in prepared baking dish. Sprinkle brown sugar over apples/cranberries. Bake about 25 minutes, until apples are tender and top is golden. Cool somewhat on a wire rack. Serve as is or with suggested goodies. Makes about 8 servings.