Itty, bitty, teeney, tiny does one cook this?
July 22, 2008 1:17 PM   Subscribe

In our meat share this month, we got two (adorable) but completely confusing tiny little chickens. What can I do with these things?

Friends of ours tried to grill them and, while they proclaimed them to be tasty, recommended that we try to keep them whole.

I've roasted a chicken before, but never something so small. I mean, look at these things! A drumstick is the size of my thumb! I'm super intimidated as I am not the greatest cook to begin with and this is completely foreign to me. Searching for "tiny chicken" on the Internet wasn't as helpful as I thought it would be

Help? Ideas?
posted by jeanmari to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Google "Cornish game hens."
posted by amro at 1:22 PM on July 22, 2008 [2 favorites]

I am a vegetarian, but based on what I've seen on tv that is maybe a "game hen" and you eat the whole thing at once?
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:22 PM on July 22, 2008

Looks like a little small for beer can roasting. Maybe you can try that with a small red bull can instead.
posted by mkb at 1:22 PM on July 22, 2008

I just brush them with some butter or olive oil and maybe a little rosemary, then roast them like chickens. They come out very nice and juicy, although it is a bit more work getting the meat off of those tiny little bones. They've also got a stronger flavor than regular chickens, which is something to keep in mind if you're pairing wine with them (I'd recommend a Zinfandel or Shiraz).
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:29 PM on July 22, 2008

Yeah, it looks like a game hen to me (I don't cook, but I've eaten Cornish hen before). You can chop it in half (with a cleaver or perhaps those meat shears) before you roast, or just do it whole. There are tons of recipes on the internet if you need more guidance.
posted by muddgirl at 1:37 PM on July 22, 2008

I think the yummiest way to cook those is like you do for "chicken under a brick": butterflied, seasoned, and pan-fried with a weight on top.

This link has helpful pictures of how you do this with a largish chicken -- game hen is easier because it is smaller, but the theory is exactly the same. Here is a much more elaborate version, complete with partial boning and finishing in the oven. Do that if you want the extra work, but there is no necessity for doing anything more elaborate than the basics. Googling "chicken under a brick" gets you pages and pages of recipes, mostly the same but varying in fanciness.
posted by Forktine at 1:48 PM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

They are excellent, but easy to dry out.

Take a large pot and fill it with a whole thing of honey, a whole bottle of white wine, some sage or thyme or whatever you like, and a ton of kosher salt, (brown sugar is nice too if you like it). Throw the birds in. If the birds are not covered, add a bit of water or more wine, whatever. Put the lid back on and stick in the fridge for a day or so.

This is called brining and it ROCKS!

I would then either oven roast them or smoke them over low heat. They'll still get done fast and it'll be fall off the bone delicious.
posted by stormygrey at 1:49 PM on July 22, 2008 [4 favorites]

Stormygrey just made my mouth water. I'm not usually a big fan of brining (it's not needed on full-size birds if you cook them right), but on tiny things like this, or even chicken wings (bony), it can really help keep them moist.
posted by rokusan at 1:59 PM on July 22, 2008

No matter how you end up cooking them, they will be greatly enhanced by a brining - but not with the abandon that stormygrey suggests. You gotta watch the salt content or you'll end up with inedible fowl. For the proper ratio of salt:sugar:water, here's everything you need to know. (Cook's Illustrated PDF)
posted by webhund at 2:01 PM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Centre of a 4 layer turduckenowl.
posted by Mitheral at 2:15 PM on July 22, 2008

Just one thing to add to stormgrey's (very good) brining advice - don't forget to rinse the brine off before cooking them. If not, you'll end up with something like the salty abomination I served last night.
posted by bibliowench at 2:32 PM on July 22, 2008

oh, yum, cornish hens. oven to 350, cut in half and put skin side up in pan. pour some teriyaki/soy/wine/whatever in there to give the hen about 1/4 inch of liquid to sit in - get some on top of the hen too. then put whatever spices you want on the hen - garlic, pepper, creole powder, etc. cook for 1 hour. done. easy easy and very tasty.
posted by striker at 2:39 PM on July 22, 2008

Wow, these are all terrific. Thanks everyone! (Now, I cannot burn these or dry them out. Otherwise, I will be scorned. Not easy for someone whose parents once gave her a smoke alarm labeled "kitchen timer".)
posted by jeanmari at 4:46 PM on July 22, 2008

Well, it does seem you have sorted this out. I love stuffing these small birds but that may be further than you want to go.

Normally I can tell when the bird is done because the juice runs clear when you stick a knife into the leg joint. The joke goes like this: cook it until the leg joint is loose then take it out fifteen minutes earlier. An hour at 350 maybe too long.
posted by pointilist at 4:55 PM on July 22, 2008

I love the idea of being confused by a small chicken :)

Years back, I once followed a recipe for cornish hens "Sardinian style", that I think might have come from the Urban Peasant, James Barber. If I remember correctly they were sort of stewed with tomatoes, black olives and lots of garlic, and they were good enough that I remember it 10 years later. I can't find the recipe now though. If someone has his cookbooks maybe the recipe will be in one of them.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 5:36 PM on July 22, 2008

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