Would you believe me if I said you could cook these little Cornish game hens (or even a full size chicken) directly on a pan with no added oil or butter? Why so skeptical? It's not like you have to rub them down with unicorn blood or anything. Even a novice chef can learn this secret (but simple) method for cooking poultry without added fat. I was first introduced to this method by Chef Paul and Chef Sui Lon of the Miette Culinary Studio in NYC during a team-building cooking class my office hosted. If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I might not have believed it either. I was determined to repeat the experiment in my own kitchen and voila - worked like a charm!
Now, I used my cast iron pan because I don't think it gets enough love, but at the cooking class we used a stainless steel roasting pan. Either would work fine. Keep reading to learn the secret!
- 2 Cornish game hens
- 4 cloves garlic
- 4 sprigs rosemary
- 4 sprigs sage
- 8 sprigs thyme
- 1/4 of a whole lemon (sliced lengthwise into two wedges)
- garlic powder
- Preheat oven to 375F. When it comes to temperature, place your empty cast iron skillet or stainless steel roasting pan on a middle rack and let heat for at least 20 minutes.
- Prepare your hens by removing any package of giblets from inside the cavity and patting them dry with paper towels.
- Split all the fresh herbs evenly in two piles and group together to form little bouquet garnis. No need to tie with string.
- Stuff the inner cavities of each hen with two garlic cloves, one small lemon wedge, and one of the herb bouquets. There should still be a little wiggle room inside so that the hen will cook completely through. If there isn't, your lemon might still be too big.
- Sprinkle the outside of the hens generously with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika and rub the spices into the skin with your hands. The bird should be covered on all sides. Set aside on a plate (or this can be done the night before and stored in the fridge).
- AND NOW FOR THE BIG SECRET! When the pan in the oven has had at least 20 minutes to heat up, you're going to dry the crap out of the bottoms of each hen by wiping vigorously with paper towels. This is not the tentative patting of meat, this is a full on RUB DOWN. The bottoms of the hens must be COMPLETELY DRY or you risk them sticking to the pan. Rub those babies hard. Don't worry about rubbing off the seasoning, remember, this is just the bottom of the hen you're wiping. Once you are CERTAIN they are dry you're going to quickly remove the hot pan from the oven and place the hens inside (bottoms down, breast-side up). They should make a loud sizzling sound the minute they touch the hot pan. You may be tempted to lift them to see if they have stuck. Don't. Leave 'em alone and quickly get that pan back in the oven. This whole process should take less than 30 seconds from the moment the pan comes out of the oven.
- Let the hens roast in the oven for 45 minutes. If you're unsure if the hens are done, test the meaty part of the thigh with a meat thermometer to verify they've reached at least 165F. Or slice through the thigh and ensure the meat is cooked through and juices run clear. If you have a reliable oven, though, 45 min should be sufficient.
- Let the meat rest at least 10min before carving/serving. You can serve 1 whole hen per person, or take some sharp kitchen shears and cut clear through the back bones and breast bones to serve one half chicken per person (after removing the stuffing).
- Tip: If you want to cook a large amount of hens at once, follow the same method and still cook for 45 minutes. If you have more than one pan, though, rotate the pans (which is on top versus which is on bottom) every 15 minutes to ensure even cooking.
We fancy, huh!
|This is all you need to stuff two hens. Remember to keep the lemon wedges small.|
|Rub the crap outta them to get all the water off. If you think you are rubbing hard, rub harder.|
|QUICKLY get them into the hot pan...|
|...and back in the oven.|
|So... beautiful... should have sent a poet...|
|See - no sticking!|
|You can easily cut down the front and back of each hen to create |
individual half-portions to serve laying on their side on the plate.
|Or serve whole!|