Yo, whatever. This sounds way fancier than it is; ultimately, it’s no different than preparing a roasted whole chicken, it’s just smaller. And if you’ve never done a whole chicken, you should! My brother roasts a chicken every weekend—you have ample leftovers for weekday lunches and can make a great stock with the collateral damage. If you need stock tips (but not the lucrative ones), hit me up.
Ingredients (serves 2)
1 whole Cornish game hen (or one per person if you’re really hungry)
1/2 lb potatoes (red, fingerling, whatever)
6-8 skinny carrots
1/2 lb Brussels sprouts
1 small bulb of garlic (small!)
White wine (sub in veggie or chicken stock if you don’t roll that way)
Salt & freshly ground pepper (I use kosher salt or sea salt in a grinder)
Optional deglazing sauce:
Half of a small shallot, finely diced
Small knob of butter
It’s not complicated.
Preheat the oven to 400. Start out by quartering your potatoes (lengthwise, widthwise, whatever!) and peeling/cutting your carrots. You want the potatoes to be roughly uniform in size (about an inch at their thickest), and the carrots to be about 2-3 inches long and relatively skinny (so leave the ends as they are, then halve/quarter the thicker parts). Pick about 3 tbsp worth of thyme leaves.
Marni’s thyme tip: working with one twig at a time, pull against the grain of the branch to free the leaves most efficiently.
Throw all of that into a roasting pan or glass casserole dish, splash it with about 1/4 cup white wine (or stock) and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Mix that up and throw it in the oven to get it going, since the bird is small enough that the potatoes will take a bit longer and you are all about timing!
Get your bird out. If you want a crispier skin (and this goes especially for roasted chicken), remove whatever weird shit you have to remove (neck, organs, excessive fat pieces), rinse it inside and out with cold water, and dry it thoroughly with paper towels. Save whatever bits you can for stock if that’s your plan. Salt it all over (including inside the cavity) and let it sit in the fridge on a wire rack over a baking sheet for as long as you can (overnight for a large bird). This is called “dry brining” and really makes the skin crispy and the meat juicy. If you’re like me and, unless it’s a special occasion like Thanksgiving, forget about that kind of shit until you’re already cooking, then don’t worry about it: rinse the little bugger and dry it off.
Take your little garlic bulb and halve it horizontally, setting one half aside for use. Because the hen is so wee, cut your lemon into quarters and set two aside for stuffing. Pluck off 4-5 sage leaves.
Shove all of that into the cavity. Using butcher’s twine or whatever string you can find (as long as it’s not dyed), tie the legs together over the open cavity to help keep all of the bird’s meat and cheese from spilling out everywhere. Salt the entire hen liberally.
I don’t make the rules, you know? You can get creative. Don’t like sage? Use different herbs! Use an orange for all I care. It’s hard to get this wrong.
Prepare a little dish of olive oil and add some more fresh thyme, salt, and pepper.
After your potatoes have been in for 10-15 minutes, take them out, stir them around and place the bird directly on top of that ish. Make sure the wings and the little fat flap over the neck opening are tucked underneath. Brush it all over with your herbed oil. Stick it back in the oven and set the timer for about 30 minutes.
Aside: When a Canadian buddy of mine was visiting during Canadian Thanksgiving a few years ago, I prepared Cornish game hens for the first time and researched it a little first. Per my internet findings, I draped bacon slices over the breasts to prevent them from drying out. It was delicious, but it also caused the smoke alarm to go off a lot. I haven’t done it since and haven’t noticed an appreciable difference.
Once the bird is in, clean up your shit. It’s so nice when you finish preparing a big meal and look around and have almost no dishes to deal with. Cut off the Brussels sprout nubs, halve them, and throw them in a bowl. Add a glug of olive oil, some salt and pepper, and mix it around. When your timer goes off, check on the situation – it should look like the carrots have started to caramelize and the potatoes are pretty soft and maybe even browning a little at the edges. If it doesn’t look like that, give it another 10 minutes or so. Once you feel emotionally and spiritually ready, pull it out and add your brussels sprouts to the mix. Stir it around and stick it back in. Set your timer for another 15 minutes.
At this point it’s all feeling. You decide when it’s time, you know? If your timer goes off but you’re not convinced, put it back in! You are the master of your domain. You could also use a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh (165° F/73.8° C). Once you’re convinced that your poor little bird just can’t take anymore because it’s a child, it’s just a child, then remove it to a cutting board and tent it with foil. The little guy needs to rest for some minutes. It’s been a rough night.
Optional Next Level: Remove your vegetables to a bowl and cover with foil to keep warm. Splash some wine into your baking vessel and scrape up everything you can. Heat a small pan to medium heat and transfer your pan drippings (if you’re using a roasting pan you can actually just skip the smaller pan and do all of this in the roasting pan directly over a burner).
Mince half of a shallot and throw it in. Once it’s reduced a little, splash in some chicken stock. Reduce some more. When it looks just about ready, stir in a small knob of butter to make it even richer and more delicious. I mean I say this is optional but I don’t really believe that, you know? Do this.
After the hen has rested for 5-10 minutes, remove the string and cut the whole bird in half, splitting it through the breastbone and spine. This may require some confidence. You can do this! You’ve already gotten this far; just grab your chef’s knife and go for it. Right down the middle. I believe in you. Once it’s lying there in two halves, defeated and humiliated, remove the contents of the cavity, grab a plate and serve up a nice portion of your vegetables. Add one half hen and finish with a few spoonfuls of sauce. Serve with white wine and a smile.
i THOROUGHLY enjoyed reading this, marni. i think you should write a cookbook.
also even though i am the “cook” in my relationship i have never roasted a whole chicken and i’m kind of terrified to do so. will it be obvious what i have to remove? will i vom when i touch the gizzard? what’s a gizzard? ALSO reading these recipes might make me wish a teeny tiny bit that my girlfriend was actually the cook in our relationship, because omg imagine someone making this for you?! riese is so lucky.
Usually when you get a roasting chicken all the innards are in a little bag inside the cavity and you just take that out. There’ll be a few big chunks of fat at the base of the cavity to cut off, and thats pretty much it. With this little hen there was a bit of neck bone that I had to cut off, which was a bit weird but not a big deal. I assume that if you’re being more selective about where you’re getting your meat – like from a local farm or co-op – there may be more prep required, but I can’t really speak to that since I usually buy from the grocery store.
I should also note that when you’re working with raw poultry it’s really important to keep the raw meat separate from your other foods and on it’s own work surface, to wash all work surfaces and instruments that have been in contact with the raw meat promptly, and to make sure it’s cooked to an internal temperature of 165 t the thickest part of the meat (without touching the bone with your thermometer).
Yeah it’s that last bit that makes me quiffy about preparing raw meat of any kind. I know I’m going to poison myself, I just KNOW IT. So that’s why I make my girlfriend do it.
And whilst on the topic of food poisoning, advice here in the UK is not to wash poultry before cooking due to risk of splashes spreading bugs around the kitchen (and a 3ft radius would cover every surface in my kitchen I think).
However recipe looks wonderful. I shall have to have friends around again soon as my veggie wife just doesn’t appreciate the wonders of crispy chicken skin. I shall try the dry brining technique!
PS for those in the UK in the know I do not read the telegraph, but it had a nice clear summary on this.
I dry-brined a turkey for American thanksgiving recently and it turned out great – I encourage you to try it! I spatchcocked it (intense, but cut down on cooking time immensely), and put it in the fridge overnight (though two days wouldn’t have been out of the question). When I took it out, I was at first alarmed by the discolouration in the skin in places – almost alligatorish – but I was assured that that was only an indication of the skin drying out and the brining doing its job. Ultimately it cooked beautifully and was delicious. Good luck to you!
this was super helpful, thank you marni!
is now the part where i can ask for stock tips? specifically: how do i make stock? i realize i could just google this but i like when you explain cooking to me/the internet.
I will do a get baked about stock
I am eating my crappy sack lunch while reading this and its making even this sad sandwich taste good. I can only imagine what the real thing tastes like!
I’m definitely going to convince Zeller to make this. I just can’t break thing’s bones, I can’t do it.
YES I WILL MAKE THIS.
this is super cute you guys, fyi
Yup, I just died of cute.
For those who don’t know, and because the pictures show a glass baking dish:
DO NOT EVER USE A PYREX DISH DIRECTLY OVER A BURNER. EVER.
It will be a magnificent explosion. The coolness of seeing your dish explode into a million tiny little shards is way less than the frustration of cleaning glass off of every surface in your kitchen.
But yeah, this looks like an awesome recipe and I’m definitely gonna try it.
Yes, I specified that you can do the sauce directly on the burner if you’re using a roasting pan, but didn’t explicitly say not to do that with the Pyrex, so thanks for making that clear.
Fun story: The first time I tried making my own bread I used a recipe that recommended placing a dish in the oven while it was preheating and then pouring water into the dish right before placing the dough in the oven (the steam makes it crusty). Unfortunately, at the time I did not have a community of caring internet lesbians to warn me about what kind of pan to use, and my pyrex dish exploded instantly.
Epilogue: There’s still glass all over the bottom of my oven.
I just ate a massive indian take away and thought I was full. Then I saw this and all sorts of hunger feels flooded over me.
@catjay Now I’m craving Indian food and this delicious looking Cornish hen. Also, I keep trying to respond to your message but the system won’t let me. Failtrain!
If you’re lucky, I will send you my email add.
Yesterday Thai food, today Indian and Cornish…what will tomorrow bring?
Now let’s see how lucky your are…
Not very lucky it turns out… it won’t let me message you either!
Two tickets for the Failtrain pleeeeease…
Haha. Only if they serve cornish game hen and caramelized potatoes!
Your paying by the way.
you should know by now i am never going to make this, but i just wanted to let you know i respect your wordplay.
I love that Marni cooks. Don’t you all love that Marni cooks? I mean it was cool that Marni can fix shit, build shelves and generally knows what every tool is and what it’s used for. But…SHE COOKS TOO!!
I would like a “butching it up with Marni” AND a “cooking it up with Marni” workshop please.
Also for some reason “butching it up with Marni” always runs through my head like a little jingle. I’m sure the melody is from an actual commercial jingle, but I can’t place it.
we made up a “butchin’ it up with marni” jingle that we sang all the time at camp. we also would add an “and jill!” to the end. but i dont know where we got the jingle from originally. but that might be the reason it runs through your head like that. robin was almost unable to speak of the workshop without singing the jingle
Oh God I just figured out it’s the last line of the chorus of Party in the USA that is running through my head.
just sang the entire chorus in my head to figure out what you meant, can totally visualize it/hear it now, gonna be singing it all day…THANKS MARIKA. (no jk seriously thank you because why the heck not).
YOU’RE WELCOME VANESSA.
I mean, and she also sings? Be still, my beating heart. Riese is a lucky, lucky woman.
I love this, Marni.
I grew up eating cornish game hens. I love to put orange pieces, rosemary, and garlic inside them and then glaze the birds with cherry preserves while they cook. Sooo goood!
ZELLER COOK ME THINGS
woah, cherry preserves. ZELLER.
This was hilarious and almost makes me feel like I could cook that
I’m pretty sure I’ve actually cooked a cornish game hen before, but I used a slow cooker instead which was super easy. I like them, they’re super tasty and a convenient size.
the day i own a slow cooker will be the day all my dreams come true
Gurrrrrrllll it’ll be the best $20-60 you’ve ever spent.
I hope your girlfriend is reading this. MAKE HER DREAMS COME TRUE.
may or may not have just emailed this comment to her
Happy girlfriend = happy home.
Think of it as an investment.
Also everyone gets happy tummy, so everyone wins!
I only have one because a couple years ago I told my mom that all I wanted for Christmas was a slow cooker and gave her 8 months notice and a couple reminders
i could never imagine doing these things to a hen corpse but this is one of my favorite posts of all time
This recipe was brought back to my attention thanks to the recent potato products list so I made it for dinner tonight and it was delicious!