While avoiding the sample offerers at our friendly neighborhood Costco, I came across a Cornish Game Hen in the freezer section and thought it’d be nice to try for dinner one evening.
Just the one. For the two of us.
Because, Costco being Costco, this Cornish Game Hen was easily the size of the free-range, organic Amish-raised whole chicken we buy from Trader Joe’s, so one hen would be more than enough.
I was gonna just spatchcock it and then go for my old standby chicken marinade, but then I recalled a recipe I’d saved from somewhere that called for basting chicken breasts with basil mayonnaise while baking them and decided to try a basil and buttermilk marinade.
The hen turned out moist, flavorful, and quite tasty, and the addition of Alabama White Sauce added a nice extra zip.
•1 tbsp vinegar or fresh lemon juice
•Milk to measure one cup
•1 cup veggie oil
•2 cloves garlic, minced
•Fresh basil leaves, chopped
•1 tsp Aleppo pepper
•1/2 tsp sea salt
•1 sweet onion, sliced
•1 lemon, sliced
•Alabama White Sauce or barbecue sauce
*As I noted above, the Empire Cornish Hen I picked up at Costco was huge, so one was more then enough for the two of us. If you pick up more usually-sized birds, this recipe should work fine for two hens.
Add the tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to a two cup measure, then add milk to make one cup. Whisk to combine, then set aside to rest for five minutes.
You have just made buttermilk.
Spatchcock the hen by cutting out the back bone – in truth, I just cut the bird in half, I just like saying ‘spatchcock’ – then place in a gallon-sized zipper bag.
Stir the oil together with the buttermilk, then add the basil, garlic, sea salt, and Aleppo pepper and pour over the hen in the bag. Place on a rimmed plate (to catch any possible drips), then stash in the fridge for four hours or (more better) overnight, turning the bag over when you think to.
When ready to roast, heat your oven to 425º, line a large roasting pan with foil, and remove the hen from the fridge.
Remove the hen from the marinade (discard the marinade at this point) and arrange in the roasting pan with the sliced onion and lemon.
Season with additional sea salt and black pepper, tuck in a couple of fresh rosemary sprigs, and drizzle with the Alabama white sauce, if you’re using it. If you’re using regular barbecue sauce (try this recipe), hold off on adding it for a bit.
Pop the hen(s) into the oven and bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes.
Remove from the oven and drizzle with a bit more of the Alabama White Sauce – or, if you’re using barbecue sauce, add it now.
Return to the oven and bake for another fifteen to twenty minutes, until the hen(s) is cooked through and nicely browned.
Remove from the oven and set aside to rest for fifteen minutes or so.
Serve with more of the Alabama White Sauce and the roasted lemon and onion slices, if you like.
We had ours with Caesar salad and penne baked with a vegetarian vodka sauce on the side and were well pleased.