We all have had fried chicken and deep fried turkeys has become the thing to do lately (regardless of how many fires have forever ruined Thanksgiving). What about the “little people” of the chicken world, the Cornish Game Hen? A few months ago I began wondering ,why don’t people fry these little guys? I understand I am not charting new territory and I know there are other people that marvel at all the things you can toss in hot grease but I just had never seen it done before.
First of all, what is a Cornish Hen? After doing a bit of research, I am still confused and don’t know what to believe. Its like trying to sift through this health care business. Some sources say a Cornish Hen is just a chicken that has not been allowed to reach maturity and is therefore simply smaller. I have read a fella and his wife from Connecticut started breeding various fowl to come up with a smaller chicken consisting mostly of white meat suitable for a single serving. Others say Donald John Tyson (no relation to the ear nibbler) created the bird in the 1960’s through cross-breeding. All that I believed to be sacred came crashing down when I found out the cornish hen sitting in my fridge may not even be a female. I will leave the hen debate at that for now and let you draw your own conclusion or enlighten me if you happen to be an expert on the matter.
So lets talk about what I do know, these birds taste great and are excellent for frying. You can cut it up, fry it whole or spatchcock it…..spatch what it? Spatchcock is a term that is said to have origins in 18th century Ireland and basically means “to butterfly”. You are essentially cutting the back and breastbones from the bird so it can lay flat. This process makes it fast and easy to fry or grill the bird. Instead of me trying to explain the process I found a very good demonstration on youtube and you can find it below.
He trims off the excess skin and fat at the start which I skip because that ends up being some of the tastiest stuff…skin and fat…what else is there. Also at minute 2:20 he cuts the bird down the middle which I dont do. I keep the bird in one piece because I like the way it looks at the end. He is correct the bird is a little difficult to deal with, as you would be too if someone took your back and chest bones out. To keep the legs from dangling around I cut a hole in the skin just large enough to tuck the leg as pictured below. This is another reason why you want to leave the excess skin.
You can let the minors back in the room as the intimate portion is over and now we are going to get this baby ready to fry. I like to fry chicken/hens the way my grandmother did to when I was growing up. Put the bird in a plastic bag and let it sit in Franks Hot Sauce for at least an hour and as long as overnight. The longer she sits, the more that skin and meat is going to take in the sauce. Also instead of seasoning the bird now, I add my seasoning to the flour that I will dredge the bird in.
Times like this I break out my heavy duty cast iron skillet that I dare someone to break in my house while I am holding, it would knock out a horse…no joke. When frying anything I like to use a thermometer so I know the exact tempurature of my oil at all times for two reasons. First, I paid alot of attention to Smokey the Bear growing up and if that oil gets too far above 400 degrees you could have a major problem on your hands. Second, the tempurature of the oil is very important, too hot and your skin cooks too fast and your guest end up cutting into a raw chicken. Too low and you could have something that resembles a soggy bowl of corn flakes. I find keeping the temperature 350 degrees or a hair above works great.
Spatchcocking is a great way to impress guest because this bird looks pretty cool on the plate. Have a side of your favorite hotsauce for dipping and eat away. Experiment with different ways of seasoning your flour and enjoy.
SOUTHERN FRIED SPATCHCOCKED CORNISH HEN
1 cornish hen
1/2 cup of Frank’s Hotsauce
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tablespoon Tony Chacher’s Creole Seasoning or your favorite Cajun seasoning
1/2 tablespoon garlic salt
ground black pepper
Spatchcock the hen as per above video and place the hen in a plastic zip-lock bag. Pour the hotsauce into the bag and let sit refrigerated for 1hr – overnight.
Heat enough oil in a large, heavy pan to cover half the hen to 350 F. Leave sufficient room so the oil does not overflow the top of the pan.
Mix flour and seasonings in a large tray. Use tongs to take the hen from the plastic bag and let excess sauce drain. Dredge both sides of the hen in the flour mixture then shake off excess flour.
Gently lower the hen into the oil and cook until golden brown (approx 7-10minutes) then use tongs to turn the hen over to cook exposed side. When the skin has reached a golden brown color remove from oil and let drain on paper towels for a few moments then enjoy