Sunday, February 26, 2006

Eating Chicken Little

Cornish game hens are, in fact, nothing more than little chickens. I just looked it up, and I'm rather disappointed. Somehow I'd hoped they were some sort of exotic game bird, supplied to the market by industrious shooting parties traipsing around Cornwall in red hunting coats. But it turns out that there's really no one here but us chickens after all.

As a matter of historical interest, these little chickens used to be littler chickens. As the Joy of Cooking tells us: "Just like the rest of us, rock Cornish hens seem to put on a little weight with each passing year."

***
Ginger-Glazed Cornish Game Hens

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Rinse and pat dry:
2 Cornish game hens (1 to 1 1/2 pounds each)
Place the hens in a large roasting pan, with enough room for them to sit apart.

Combine in a small bowl:
2-3 generous Tablespoons honey
1 1/2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 Tablespoon mirin, or sweet cooking rice wine (sherry works too)
2 Tablespoons candied ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Stir to combine. If the honey is stubborn and sticks to the bottom of the bowl, microwave for 10 seconds at a time until the honey is liquid and the ingredients are integrated.

Paint the hens with the glaze and pop them in the oven, uncovered, for 40 minutes to an hour. Baste every ten minutes or so. The hens are done when a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh reads 170 degrees. Since the hens are small, there seems to be little danger of overcooking the white meat, and they really are better when the meat is falling of the bones, so letting them get closer to 180 degrees wouldn't be terrible. When the hens are done, the skin will be deliciously brown and crackly.

***
Serving note: I stuffed the hens and served them with cucumber salad dressed with toasted sesame oil, peanut oil, ume plum wine vinegar and soy sauce.

14 comments:

Jennifer said...

What? I'm so disillusioned. I've always thought cornish hens were something special too, not just a plain old chicken! Ah, well, yours looks delish.

Katherine said...

Some readers have expressed interest in what I stuffed the hens with. Stove Top, people. You can't beat it.

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