by Sheila Connolly
You do know that's just a fancy name for a chicken, right? And it's not even always a female chicken. The USDA describes it as "a young immature chicken (less than five weeks of age), weighing not more than two pounds ready-to-cook weight." It is descended from the Cornish breed of chicken and some other unspecified breed (tell me the last time your supermarket included the breed of chicken on their label). It grows fast. And markets charge more for it than for its full-grown relatives which took longer to raise. Go figure. It's all in the marketing.
But there are those of us here who are empty-nesters, and cooking a whole chicken means eating chicken three times in a week (and it's never quite the same after you've frozen it). Don't get me wrong—I love to cook chicken, and I love having the leftover meat handy because it's so versatile. But sometimes you want small and simple, and obviously a two-pound birdie is going to cook quickly, which makes it a fast and easy meal for two. A two-pound game hen works well for two adults with normal appetites, even with a little help from the cats.
|That's a two-pound bird|
You can do anything with your tiny chicken that you can do with a bigger one—just faster. It's interesting how many recipes for this critter call for lemon juice or vinegar, and often lemon peel. Here's a slightly lemony version that includes tarragon.
LEMON TARRAGON CORNISH GAME HEN
One 2-pound Cornish Game Hen
½ stick (1/4 pound) unsalted butter, softened (not melted)
2 Tblsp finely chopped shallot
1 Tblsp grated lemon zest
1 Tblsp chopped fresh tarragon (you can substitute dried)
½ tsp salt
Black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
Rinse the hen, split it, and remove the backbone with shears.
In a bowl, mix together the butter, shallot, lemon zest, tarragon, salt and pepper (I've found that wearing latex gloves helps—then you can just massage the mixture over your bird).
Rub the butter mixture on both sides of your hen pieces, and place in a shallow baking pan. Sprinkle a little more salt and pepper over the top.
Roast in the middle of the preheated oven until the hen is cooked through and the skin is a golden brown—it should take about 30 minutes.
Feel free to experiment with other herbs and spices!
New York Times Paperback Bestseller!