Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Do WHAT to the bird??

Cornish game hens are on the agenda for this weekend, and so is a unique way to prepare a bird for cooking- spatchcocking. Spatch huh? You heard me, spatchcocking. While this is not a new way to prepare poultry for roasting, it's gaining in popularity thanks to cooking television and food bloggers and a greatly increased interest in preparing delicious food at home. The easy definition of spatchcocking is removing the backbone, and sometimes the sternum, and laying the bird out flat, similar to butterflying. So similar the terms are sometimes interchanged. The result is more even cooking and a greatly reduced cooking time. 

Cornish game hens have been one of my favorite birds pretty much my whole life. My dad would often roast Cornish hens with some fabulous glaze recipe he found in a magazine or cookbook, or later when he got a fancy grill with an electric spit- rotisserie hens. Funny how so many of my food stories start with Dad. He really is someone who inspired my love of cooking and learning about food.

Cornish game hens been around since the mid 1950s and they really are kind of a funny thing. They aren't game birds at all, in fact they are just very young chickens, around thirty days of age, your typical broiler-fryer chicken. They aren't necessarily "hens" either- they can be either male or female birds. Different breeds of bird result in different sizes of hens, different size of the breast meat. They are perfect for a one or two person serving and make a lovely presentation when roasted, like a teeny tiny roast turkey.

Let's get this show on the road and spatchcock these little guys. First of all, I rinse the hens thoroughly under cold running water. Just a gentle stream, not a gushing waterfall. Despite the "experts" saying you might spread chicken bacteria around if you wash the bird, I've seen how some processing companies are. I'm washing my bird. Your choice if you do or don't. 

Then I dry the skin with paper towels. I'm going to be cutting into the raw bird so I want the skin dry and not slippery. Turn the bird so the back is facing up. I place the bird on a sheet pan with a rim to contain any liquid that might be inside. 

Starting at the thigh end, use a heavy duty kitchen shears to cut alongside the backbone, up one side, then turn and down the other side. Discard the backbone, unless you save scraps for stock. 

Flip the bird over on the pan and press down firmly on the middle of the breast to flatten. If you have difficulty getting your hen to flatten, you can flip it over and use the shears to cut out the sternum. I have not had to do this with small hens, only larger birds like turkeys.

That's all there is to it! Your hen is now ready to cook, and with a lot more skin exposed for crisping up and becoming beautifully browned and tasty. Before we get to that part though, we are going to brine our hens in a salt water bath flavored with a handful of herbs. The brine produces a succulent and juicy bird- you're going to want to do this to every bird from now on.

To make the brine, in a large stockpot place one gallon warm water. Add 2/3 cup kosher salt, 1/3 cup sugar, and a handful of whatever herbs strike your fancy. Bouquet garni is nice, as are fines herbes. Place the hens in the brine, covering completely, and refrigerate overnight. Before cooking, drain off and discard the brine and rinse the birds. Pat the skin dry and you're ready to cook.

Pan Roasted Cornish Hens with Chimichurri

2 Cornish game hens
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 bunch Italian parsley (about 1 cup leaves)
1 bunch cilantro (about 1 cup leaves)
2 garlic cloves
1 heaping teaspoon finely minced preserved lemon*
1/2 cup olive oil**
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

*I am using my homemade preserved lemons. To use, I will scrape off and discard the soft flesh and thoroughly rinse the remaining peel. 

** I used Sinful Food Italian Herb olive oil for half the oil in this recipe. Get yours by clicking HERE.

Spatchcock the Cornish hens. Rub the skin with olive oil and season well on both sides with salt and pepper. 

Heat the oven to 375 degrees and heat a heavy large cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and place one of the hens, skin side down. 

Top with a plate and a heavy pot and cook, weighted down, until the skin is golden brown. Flip the bird and brown the other side. 

Place the bird on a rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with the second bird. Place the hens in the hot oven and roast til the internal temp measures 165 degrees. Remove from oven and tent with foil, rest for ten minutes.

While birds are cooking, combine remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor. Process until a mostly smooth sauce is formed. Pour into a bowl and set aside.

To serve, drizzle the birds with a small amount of the chimichurri. Pass additional sauce at the table.

This bird is delectable served with whole wheat couscous and roasted asparagus. You can get the asparagus going in the oven while browning the hens. The hens won't need much time to finish in the oven and the asparagus roasts pretty quickly too. Easy and delicious!

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a "sponsored post." As a Brand Ambassador, the company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift or something of value. Regardless,  I only recommend products or services I believe are of good quality and safe. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

No comments:

Post a Comment