Monday, October 26, 2009

Cornish Game Hen

One of our local grocery chains (local to the area) every two weeks or so has a themed "13 Hour Sale." Some weeks the theme is baking supplies; others it is wine and cheese; and yet others it is candy. A little while ago, the chain had a 13-Hour Meat Sale.

For the most part, I buy meats as we plan to eat them. Not as economical as it might be, but the meat is fresh, not frozen. I didn't buy much meat this year as the sales weren't as good as they've been in the past, but I did pick up a few Cornish game hens for two dollars each. They were already frozen, so I didn't have to worry about reducing their quality by freezing them.

Not long after the sale, the weather turned colder. When the weather gets cold, I turn on my oven. So I roasted a Cornish game hen for dinner.

As most of you know, roasting meat is basically a balancing game of trying to get the internal temperature to a certain point before the meat dries out. The easiest way to do this is to roast at a relatively high temperature. The standard 350°F (176°C) oven that most people leave their ovens set at just doesn't cut it. The meat gets dry, especially for birds, while the bottom gets greasy. Not terribly appetizing.

The solution is simple: turn that oven UP! Roasting at anything less than 425°F (218°C) is not going to give great results, whether you are cooking a hunk of beef, a turkey, or a meatloaf.

I like to cook my poultry at about 450°F (232°C). The skin of the bird gets nice and crispy and the interior cooks faster than the moisture can evaporate. Yum!

Anyway, back to my Cornish game hen:

Cornish Game Hen
1 Cornish game hen
1/4 large onion, chopped coarsely
2 tablespoons garlic, chopped finely
1 teaspoon of one of the following fresh green herbs chopped finely: sage, rosemary, thyme, tarragon (2 teaspoons of the dried version will work)
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat the oven to 450°F (232°C).

Melt the butter.

Clean the interior of the cavity of the bird, removing any giblet packets and any stringy material. Spread the salt along the interior of the cavity. Put the chopped onion, garlic and green herb. Place Cornish game hen on its back in a roasting pan.

Drizzle butter over the skin of the bird.

Roast until the internal temperature reaches 180°F (82°C). Let rest for 10 minutes, remove the stuffing (discard the stuffing), then serve.

Serves 2

I can go either way regarding buttering the skin of the bird. If the bird is particularly thin-skinned, then it really does help keep the breast meat moist (as does roasting the bird on its breast, but then it doesn't look nearly as pretty). I am more likely to butter the skin if I melt the butter, simmer some herbs in it, then strain before applying to the bird. If you do butter the skin, it is more important to get the roasting temperature up so the skin crisps nicely.

If you don't want an herb-y chicken, use zest from and orange or lemon, apple, peach, or nectarine.

The stuffing in the cavity of the bird perfumes the meat wonderfully and leaves no bitterness behind.

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