Recently I had a chat with my Dad about chickens. I know, seems like a strange subject. We raised chickens when I was a kid, for their eggs. As far as I know, we never actually ate the chickens we raised, but I suppose that’s possible.
Raising chickens wasn’t the topic of our conversation. I was telling Dad how much I love preparing Game Hens for Sunday Supper. Dad said he didn’t care much for small birds, that the meat was too dry. I’ve heard that before from others, yet I’ve never prepared a small bird that ended up too dry. I don’t know why, but I think part of the reason is how the bird is thawed and how it is cooked. Both involve liquid.
First, I always thaw my game hens submerged in a pot of cold water. I leave them in their original package and the water is changed every 30 minutes. Once thawed, the package is open and the hens are placed in the refrigerator, in fresh cold water, until ready to cook. Depending upon the recipe, sometimes I make a brine or add seasonings such as mesquite or liquid smoke to the water.
Second, I always add water, stock or wine to the bottom of my roasting pan. This is true for any fowl – from chickens to turkeys. Liquid creates steam that infuses moisture and flavor into the meat. Skins can always be browned later, at the end. Moist meat at the start plus a moist cooking method results in a moist roast chicken.
When I saw this recipe for Garlic Game Hens, I had to wonder. Would there be enough aromatics to create a flavorful bird? As it turns out little Seasoning Salt, onion and garlic is all the flavoring needed. Wow! The flavor was incredible. And the birds were extra moist and juicy. Gotta love Sunday Suppers.
Garlic Game Hens with Pan Gravy
1 large head Garlic Cloves
1/2 whole Onion, Red
1/2 whole Onion, White
2 Game Hens
Seasoning Salt to taste
Paprika to taste
1 cup Chicken Stock
2 tablespoons Butter
2 tablespoons Flour
Additional Chicken Stock as needed
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Peel garlic, cut ends and set aside. Peel onion, cut into large chunks and set aside.
Scatter onion chunks on the bottom of a roasting pan and set aside.
Sprinkle the seasoning salt and paprika on the skin of the birds. Season cavity with more of the seasoning salt.
Stuff 6 cloves in each hen. Put a few in the cavity, under the skin of the breast and tucked near the joint of the leg. Sprinkle the remaining cloves in the baking dish. Pour 1 cup of chicken stock into the bottom of the roasting pan.
Tie legs of the birds together and tuck wing tips under the breasts. Place the hens on top of the garlic and onions.
Cover with dish with foil. Bake covered in heated oven for 1 hour. Uncover, continue to bake for 15 to 20 minutes to brown.
Remove from oven, plate hens on a serving platter. Strain onion and garlic from the pan juices. Place garlic and onions with the hens. Tent birds to keep warm while making the pan gravy.
Measure pan juices, add more chicken stock as needed to create 2 cups of liquid, set aside.
In a small saucepan, melt butter with flour to create a roux. Let cook until light golden, about 3 minutes. Add pan juices, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Taste, season with salt and pepper as desired. Place pan gravy in a gravy boat or bowl for serving.
Cut chicken into serving pieces and serve with pan gravy on the side. The pan gravy is great on the chicken and awesome over mashed potatoes.