Thursday, October 9, 2014

Easy Cornish Game Hens

Ok, since I wrote about cooking Cornish "Game-Day" Hens on a smoker/grill, I've been bombarded with requests about how to cook them in a regular oven.  No problem! 

Cornish hens have a lot of things going for them.  They're more flavorful than chicken, they cook very easily, they're super cheap, easy to work with, and they're just so dog-gone cute!  I have no idea why people don't eat more of them.  I do hear from others that "they dry out easily" but I'll show you how easy it is to guard against that... So let's get started!

You will need:
  • Olive oil
  • A good poultry dry rub
    • 1 Tbsp Cajun Seasoning
    • 1 Tbsp Brown Sugar
    • 1 Tbsp Paprika
    • 1 Tbsp Chili Powder 
    • 1 Tsp Ground Black Pepper
  • 2 slices of bacon per bird
  • Cornish hens 
  • Cookie sheet
  • Aluminum foil
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • Accurate cooking thermometer
  • Preheat oven to 375 (Use your "Convection Roast" setting if you have one)

First, prepare the pan!  Coat a dry cookie sheet with a generous cloud of your non-stick cooking spray (who are we kidding, we all use Pam, don't we?).  Then cut and lay out your foil and push all of the air bubbles out from under it.  Spritz one more layer of Pam across the foil.  Why do this?  Because clean-up will only take you 10 seconds after the birds are done, that's why!

Now, time to prep the bird(s).  Drizzle some good olive oil all over the birds and use your hands to massage the oil all over the front, back, and sides of each hen.  Tuck the little "Flappers" on the ends of the wings, behind the shoulders (where her little head used to be).  Now, thoroughly mix all of the ingredients to your dry rub, and give the bird a liberal sprinkling of the seasoning, on all sides.  Criss-cross two slices of bacon across the breast of each bird, and season again with your dry rub.

Why bacon?  Good question... First of all, bacon is delicious and we want to eat it whenever we have a free opportunity.  Second, and more importantly, our friend bacon is here to render its fat all over the bird during the cooking process and this will not only add flavor, but it will serve to baste the little hen and to keep her from drying out!

Now, pop the bird(s) into a pre-heated 375 degree oven, for 45 minutes.  After 45 minutes of cooking, you'll need to start paying meticulous attention to the birds!  You can see here at that after 45 mins, my hens were only 144.6 degrees.  We want a good safe 165 degrees in the deep part of the thigh, so more cooking was required.  How much?  Well, these birds are small and they heat up quickly!  I checked mine every 5 minutes from here on out because a bird at 165 is glorious, juicy, tender, etc.  A bird at 175 is a dry and sad one that you would not want to serve.  In my case, these two birds hit 168 just ten short minutes later, so don't walk away!  Pull them out of the oven, cover them with a tent of foil, and leave them alone for about 5 minutes.

When it's time to serve, use some kitchen shears to cut your little hens in half, right down the middle.  1/2 a hen (with its bacon partner) is the perfect serving portion to with some garlic French green beans and some homemade cous-cous.  The birds are on the spicy side, so a sweeter wine, like a Riesling might be nice... Mine was consumed alongside a homemade IPA (as usual).

Oh, remember the foil on the cookie sheet?  Check out just how easy it was to clean up the bird drippings!  You're welcome!!

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