Friday, November 13, 2015

Roast Cornish Game Hen

I made this chicken for a Monday roast. I was actually off of work on this particular Monday (I made this on Columbus Day about a month ago) and decided to spend the afternoon in the kitchen whipping up a warm and comforting meal. When you transition from warm weather to cool weather, 65F feels like an icicle and it makes you bundle up and start craving soups and stews and roasts.

What I love about this particular roast is that I used cornish game hens, which are tiny little birds, that cook up insanely quick and are a breeze to "carve." I say, "carve" because you don't really carve these little guys. You just chop them down the middle and each person gets a half-bird portion. But seriously, they cook up in about an hour so you could totally even make this on a regular weeknight after work.
Ingredients [serves 4]:
2 cornish game hens

herb butter
4 tablespoons softened butter
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 tablespoon crushed pepper flakes
1 clove garlic, minced

cavity ingredients
2 cloves garlic
12 parsley sprigs
2 baby carrots
1 rib celery, chopped
½ lemon, cut in 2
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs thyme

giblet gravy
chicken giblets
2 cups water
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
+ flavorings - in this case, I used mushroom but you could use onion, garlic, rosemary, whatever you like in your gravy.

Start by making an herb butter. Combine room temperature butter with garlic, crushed pepper flakes, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and stripped thyme leaves.
Stuff the cavities with a bay leaf, a few thyme sprigs, parsley, lemon wedge, celery, carrot, and garlic.
And then, it's time for a butter massage. Really work the butter onto the skin and under the skin.
It is really important that the chickens are completely dry for this step. Otherwise, the butter will slide around instead of spreading evenly around the surface.

Pop the birds onto a parchment-lined pan and then roast in a 400F oven for about an hour or until a thermometer inserted in the meatiest part (either the breast or the thigh) reads 165F.
While the birds are roasting, work on the gravy. Add the giblets and water to a saucepan and bring to a boil and skim off any scum. Let the giblets cook through and then strain; reserve the stock. I like to give the giblets to my dog, but you can certainly chop them up to use in the gravy.
To make the gravy, chop up whatever flavorings you intend on using and then add butter to a clean saucepan. Add in the flavorings (in my case, it was finely chopped mushroom) and saute until browned. Add in flour and whisk to combine and cook for a minute or two to cook the raw flour taste out of the roux. Pour in the stock and whisk to get rid of any lumps. Whisking occasionally, let the gravy come to a gradual boil and thicken.
If you have the patience, baste the chickens here and there, using its own released juices and fats. This isn't a super necessary step; the good thing about these cornish hens is that since they're small and cook through quicker, the meat doesn't have much chance to dry out. But, this does help with the flavor of the meat.
Once the chicken is cooked through, leave to rest for about 10 minutes. If you try to cut into it right away, your cutting board will be flooded with juices.
For presentation purposes, I pulled all the cavity bits and bobs out of the chickens and laid them out in a bed on a wooden cutting board. I added a little more fresh parsley and then nestled the halved hens right on top.
Honestly, I think it was a really pretty presentation. To go along with the meal, we also had wild rice pilaf, roasted broccoli with bacon and tomatoes, and a simple salad. Oh, and we had some apple cider sangria.
This is kind of like a low-key fancy and special meal. I think it would be perfect for serving to guests or even for a Friendsgiving. It's got the flare without the hassle of having to worry about an undercooked bird or trying to carve elegantly and failing superbly.
Here's the recipe page:

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