It’s been a long time since I’ve roasted a Cornish Hen. There area few reasons for this: other meat, even boneless breast-and-rib meat, tends to be a bit cheaper by weight, pan-searing and smoking are quicker than roasting, and boneless meat is a lot more convenient for cutting up bite-sized and adding to a pasta dish or stir fry.
Mostly though, I got bored. When I roast Cornish Hens (or any other bird except duck) I do the same three things over and over again. Roasted plain with mustard powder and salt. Roasted with Guinness (okay, I’ll never get sick of this, but I buy beer maybe 6-7 times a year, so it’s not gonna happen often). Roasted with lemon, garlic, and honey. There’s nothing wrong with any of this, but none of it really jumps out anymore and if there is anything I hate in the kitchen it’s feeling like I’m just making the same darn thing every week.
But I like roast chicken. It was just time to do it a bit differently. Good thing I had a copy of A Bird in the Oven hanging around. It’s one of those cookbooks I’ve had for a couple of years but inexplicably only ever use to make side dishes. This time I went looked at the chicken itself, ooh-ing at a few recipes and bookmarking others for possible dinner party use. I finally picked a recipe: roast chicken with saffron, ginger, and golden raisins.
Then, as usual, I changed pretty much everything.
Ingredients (serves 2)
1 Cornish Hen
2 T butter at room temperature
6 dried apricots
1 T whole mustard
1 t mustard powder
1/4 t white pepper
1/2 t smoked paprika
1 t kosher salt
3/4 cup white wine
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut the spine out of the hen and cut through the breastbone, cutting it in half. Dry the hen well (better yet, dry cure it for a day or two in the fridge). Chop the apricots into about 1/4″ dice.
Combine the butter, diced apricots, and whole mustard in a small dish.
Squish together with a spoon until well combined.
Add the paprika and stir again.
Using your fingers and/or the back of a spoon, spread the butter mixture underneath the skin of your hen. This will feel gross. Persevere. Place the hens cut-side-down in a cast iron skillet or other oven safe dish and sprinkle the skins with the salt, mustard powder, and white pepper.
Roast 15 minutes at 400°F. Pop the skillet on the stove, reduce the heat to 350°F, and pour the wine over the chicken.
Return to the oven to roast another 25-30 minutes at 350°F. If you like crispy skin (and who doesn’t?) crank it up to broil for about two minutes at the end.
Let it rest just a couple of minutes to soak up a bit more of that wine before serving. Serve with spinach couscous and a plate of olives.
The apricot-mustard combination is definitely going to come out to play in future recipes. These are two of my favorite things but I never would have thought that combining them would work so well.