Posts Tagged Cornish hen
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.
This may be the best way to cook a chicken that I have ever encountered. I tend to say that about every type of Cornish hen I make, but this time I mean it. It’s tender. It’s dark. It’s smoky. All the bitterness of Guinness and mustard and molasses come together to turn the meat into something more decadent than I could possibly have guessed. And you won’t believe how easy it was to make.
One of the more delightful things about Cornish hens is the fact that they’re small. This means they don’t take as long to cook. This means you have to almost try to overcook the little things to end up with tough breast meat. So while this recipe would surely work for a nice big butterflied fryer if you cooked it longer, I urge you to stick with wee little hens. You’ll thank me when you pick up a drumstick and the meat slides right off of it onto your plate.
Ingredients (serves 1 per half-hen)
One and a half Cornish hens, bisected (or one hen to serve two, or two hens to serve four.)
1 bottle Guinness extra stout, or your favorite stout. Don’t use Guinness draught. I’ll know, and I won’t be pleased.
3 T mustard powder
3 T olive oil
1 T salt
2 T molasses
3 cloves garlic
Pour the beer in a bag. I like to prop a gallon zip-top bag up inside of my 2-quart soufflé dish so that it can’t fall over and cover the counter, the floor, and the corvid with marinade.
Scoop in the mustard powder.
Lots and lots of mustard powder.
Then the olive oil.
Then molasses. No, I didn’t actually measure the molasses. It’s too sticky.
Now we need some salt. I didn’t measure that, either, because there’s no such thing as too much salt.
Then garlic. I always seem to be out of fresh garlic, and the ones we planted were uprooted and carried off by a maniacal squirrel, so we’re using dried today. Fresh is better.
That’s your finished marinade. Seal it up and shake/squish it until everything is fully mixed.
Put the hens inside and pop the whole bag in the fridge for a few hours or (better) overnight. Flip the bag over a few times to keep the marinade even.
When ready to cook, heat the oven to 425°F. Arrange the hens skin side up in a cast iron pan big enough to fit them without crowding. Pour the marinade over them and sprinkle the skin with a bit of salt.
Bake 30-35 minutes at 425°F.
Serve with colcannon and asparagus.
Sorry about that last picture. My camera battery died before I could take more than one. The chicken is delightful. I agree with our lovely dinner guest that the only necessary improvement would be a chicken made only of the crispy skin (so good!), but this was delightful. I mean absolutely and purely fantastic. Make this soon, you won’t regret it.
That’s right, I got a stovetop smoker. Where has this miraculous device been all my life? I just put a chicken in it, and went away, and when I came back I had a smoked chicken! I mean, yes, that’s what the thing is for, but I didn’t quite realize how amazing it would be.
Okay, I know this recipe is useless to anyone who doesn’t have this exact device, and I apologize. Actually, strike that. It’s less than $30 at Target. Why don’t you have one? Maybe because you’re not insane or obsessed with food. That’d be a good reason.
Smoked Cornish Hen (serves 2)
1 Cornish hen, cut in half and spine removed.
some miso paste
some chicken broth (you can tell I measure marinades well, right?)
White pepper and a bit of citrus juice.
Marinate chicken for at least a couple of hours or overnight in all that other stuff. Or your favorite marinating brew. Mr. B. raves about Stubbs brand
Eew, raw chicken. Okay. Now we set up the exciting smoking device!
That’s only 1 1/2 T of wood chips right there. Then we put the drip tray and smoking rack in, with the chicken halves on top.
Eew, raw chicken! Sorry, I just don’t like touching it. Especially when it’s all slimy from fermented bean paste and the juices of its brethren. . .
I’m really not making this process seem appetizing, am I? Sorry again.
Put the smoker over your biggest and best burner over mediumish heat (I set mine to 6 out of 10) and close it almost all the way. Wait until you see the eensiest little curl of smoke come out of the crack (5 minutes or less) then slam that sucker shut. Smoke for about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, who wants corn on the cob? Grab a couple of ears, shuck ’em, and preheat the oven to 375°F while you decide how you want to season it. (My smoker’s small. I’ll smoke corn next time.)
Mr. B had lime juice, salt, and Hatch chile powder. I had plain old salt. Well, exciting Hawaiian volcano salt. Butter for both, of course. Wrap up the corn and put it in the oven. It’ll take about a half an hour too, so the chicken will finish around the same time.
Quick tip: to tell whose corn is whose before unwrapping it on the wrong plate, I just put our initials on the foil with a Sharpie.
When the half hour is up, test the chicken at the thigh to see if it’s 170°F (yes, 170°F. 180°F is overcooked, gosh darn it.) At this point, since I wanted the joy of crispy skin, I turned the oven on to broil, removed the smoker lid, salted them hens and let them crisp up for about 3 minutes. Then, we ate. Without even bothering to take pictures. Um, sorry about that. Not even a bitty little bite for the cats remained. Which is why you, too, should be smoking at home.