Switch Up Your Poultry: Cornish Game Hens

I’m a poultry lover. I eat poultry just about every day. It’s a critical source of protein for me, and for so many of the athletes I work with. But I have to say that, without a doubt, my absolute favorite type of poultry is the Cornish hen, and I have to tell you why.

Cornish hens are really just hybrid chickens. Basically, they take a Cornish chicken and cross it with another breed of chicken; that’s why the word “Cornish” gets top billing.

Despite being called “hens,” the fact is that they can be either male or female. In either case, they have a shorter growth span when compared to a regular chicken; regular chickens take about 45 days to mature, whereas the Cornish variety only need  about 30 days to reach maturity. They have short legs, a relatively large amount of breast meat, and a raw weight of about 2 lbs.

Connecticut residents  Jacques Makowsky and his wife Alphonsine are credited for coming up with the idea back in the 1950’s. They took inspiration from the poussin, a small bird once considered  a delicacy for the aristocracy. The popularity of the Cornish hen has both endured and broadened, perhaps because it’s east to work with because of its small size. Cooking time is shorter compared with larger chickens, and smaller Cornish hens can serve a single person. They are a bit higher priced than regular chickens, but they are worth it. Cornish hens are more succulent than chicken and less gamey than turkey: an unarguably delicious dinner option.

Roast Cornish ala Colker

Ingredients

  •  Two fresh Cornish hens (1¼-1½ pounds each)
  • One onion, cut into four pieces
  • Two leaves basil
  • One lemon, cut into two wedges
  • One teaspoon raisins
  • Two garlic cloves
  • Two cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon coarse-grain Kosher salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Rinse hens inside and out thoroughly, then allow them to stand in the sink to drip and air-dry until the outer skin is fully dry.
  3. Divide onion wedges, basil leaves, lemon wedges, raisins, garlic, and cinnamon sticks and place in the cavity of each hen.
  4. In a coffee mug, melt butter in microwave, add honey, and mix until the honey melts completely into the butter.
  5. Liberally baste the outside of each bird and then salt the skin using coarse-grain Kosher salt.
  6. Place hens on roasting pan and roast in the oven for 40 minutes; then baste thoroughly and cook an additional 15 minutes.
  7. Baste and check to be sure they are fully cooked–(minimum internal temperature should be 180°F)–give more time as needed.
  8. When fully cooked, remove, let stand for 5 minutes, and serve. Your elegant meal awaits!
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