Prior to cooking this recipe, our knowledge on Cornish game hens was pretty limited. (Adrienne’s was limited to this Seinfeld episode.) These birds seemed disproportionately intimidating for such a small size. Whether it was the intimidation factor, or simply the convenience of having two – soon to be three – Giant Eagles by our house, we avoided cooking a chicken on our own for some time. So it was really shocking how easy this recipe is. This is just to say: If you’re nervous about this recipe, don’t be. Seriously. It’s pretty simple.
Rock Cornish game hens came about in the 1950s by crossbreeding Cornish chickens and White Plymouth Rock chickens. The company Tyson started selling the product, increasing its popularity to a national level. Also rising in national popularity roughly around the same time: Julia Child*. The beginning of this video has her introducing the types of chickens used for various cooking methods, and the Rock Cornish game hen falls under the “broiler” category.
*Side-note: PBS released remixes of their famous hosts, including a Julia Child remix. It’s fantastic.
Because Rock Cornish game hens started to become popular in the 1950s, we created a playlist of 1950s pop music. Throw back to the movie Stand By Me, a flick with a great soundtrack riddled with 1950s pop songs. Feel free to combine that movie and this recipe to make a gourmet tv dinner, a tradition that also came about in the 1950s.
Also on this playlist: Buddy Holly and the Crickets, a group adored by a little band called The Beatles. The insect name is a little nod to Buddy Holly.
This being our first foray into the world of game hens, we decided to cook just one bird. If you’re doubling this recipe for two birds, the only thing you should keep in mind is cooking time. (More birds = more time.) Like most brine, marinade or other meat preparation methods, you can experiment with the herb mixture proportions in this recipe. So, if you’re getting into some horror movies and want to ward off the vampires, amp up the garlic. Or if you want a little more spice in your life, use a heavy hand on the cayenne pepper. It won’t change the cooking time at all.
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tbs. chopped cilantro
- 1 tbs. diced preserved lemons
- 1/8 tsp. cumin
- 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1/8 tbs. salt
- 1 Cornish game hen, thawed
- 2 tbs. butter, melted
- 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
- Preheat the oven to 450°F.
- Combine first six ingredients in bowl and mix with fingertips.
- Pull the skin away from the meat of the hen. Spread the herb mixture under the skin of hen. (Doing this in the sink is strongly, strongly suggested.)
- Move the hen from sink to a baking dish. Brush the melted butter onto the skin and season with coarse salt and pepper.
- Roast hen until golden brown, adding broth after about 10 minutes. Baste the hen twice throughout cooking. Cook time is about 30 minutes, or until a thermometer registers 170°F – 175°F.