Today is the first Sunday of Lent. Just for the record, according to church teachings, Sundays are a day of celebration. In other words, Sundays are exempt from Lent. While eating meatless dishes are okay, Sundays are set aside for feasting together as a family, even during Lent. So make that big Sunday Roast, or cook up a beautiful chicken. After all; there is something about roasting chickens and Sundays that seem to go hand in hand.
Growing up, a Sunday Roast Chicken was always a big, fat hen. We didn’t do Game Hens. Maybe because there were so many of us, it made more sense to roast a big, fat chicken for Sunday Dinner rather than a bunch of small game hens. When I asked, Dad said we ate roasting chickens because he did not particularly like game hens. He thought the meat of the game hens was too dry. He’s right, if you roast a game hen like a chicken.
One thing I have always done with game hens is to let them sit for several hours in a pot of cold water. Depending on the final recipe, sometimes that pot has more than just salt, there’s a little liquid smoke or mesquite seasoning or whatever else I can think of to enhance the flavor. It really did not matter what the recipe might call for, a bath has to be step one. I don’t know if this truly prevents the meat from becoming too dry, it’s just what I do. Always have. So as I sat down to write this post, I decided to surf the web – see what others have to say on the subject. The answer? Some do, and swear it makes the meat more juice, others don’t and swear brining alters the natural flavor of the hens. No definitive answer. (By the way, you know how google tries to “guess” what it is you are searching for? I typed “Do game hens . . .” and what popped up was “lay eggs” – a subject I had never really thought about before. Turns out they do, but they aren’t very good at it).
This is one of those recipes that can be adjusted, depending upon how many people you plan to feed and what you might be serving as a side.
Here’s to Sunday Suppers and Company!
Garlic and Rosemary Cornish Game Hens
4 (1 1/4- to 1 1/2-pound) Cornish game hens, giblets removed
1 lemon, cut into 4 wedges
4 large fresh rosemary sprigs
3 tablespoons olive oil
24 garlic cloves, peeled
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup chicken broth
Additional rosemary sprigs (for garnish)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Pat hens dry with paper towels. Season cavities lightly with salt and pepper. Place 1 lemon wedge and 1 rosemary sprig in cavity of each hen. Rub hens with 1 tablespoon oil. Season outside of hens lightly with salt and pepper. Arrange in heavy large roasting pan. Scatter garlic around hens. Roast hens in hot oven 25 minutes.
Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Pour wine, broth and remaining 2 tablespoons oil over hens. Continue roasting until hens are golden brown and juices run clear when thigh is pierced at thickest part, basting every 10 minutes with pan juices, about 25 minutes longer.
If birds are not cooked through, add about 1/2 cup more chicken broth, cover and continue to cook 15 minutes longer.
Lift hens to transfer to a serving platter, pouring any juices from cavity into roasting pan. Tent hens with foil to keep warm. Transfer pan juices and garlic to heavy medium saucepan. Boil until reduced to sauce consistency, about 6 minutes.
Cut hens in half lengthwise. Arrange on plates. Spoon sauce and garlic around hens. Garnish with additional rosemary sprigs and serve.