Mmmmm, Our Favorite Roast Chicken Dinner has crispy skin, tender and moist meat, with plenty of roasted vegetables to go along with it. Sound delicious so far? But, who has time to wait for a chicken to roast ? Enter the Rock Cornish game hen!
Game hens are just the right size for two servings and small enough that you can roast 2 of them easily in an average-size roasting pan. To speed up the roasting time the first thing we do is spatchcock the hen. Yep spatchcock, a word that can bring about raised eyebrows, sideways looks or even stifled giggles. Spatchcock is the technique of removing the backbone from a chicken and flattening it like a book.
Why in the world would anyone spatchcock a bird? The answer is simple: THE BIRD COOKS FASTER! The bird will cook faster and more evenly if it’s relatively the same thickness — of course, some parts of the bird are thicker than others; but imagine how long you normally wait for the bird to cook all the way through when you roast it whole. Spatchcocking works great on all poultry — game hens, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese…
- Cooks faster than a trussed up whole bird
- Cooks more evenly – more crispy skin!
- Allows more room in the oven to roast other side dishes like vegetables and potatoes
- The spine and wing tips can be placed in a large ziplock bag and tossed into the freezer. Collect enough and you’ve got the makings for some awesome chicken stock.
Once the bird is spatchcocked, you can then proceed to either roast it in the oven, grill it over your outdoor grill or press it in your panini machine (see: http://paninihappy.com/spatchcock-game-hen/ Our good friend and author of Panini Happy wrote a blog post about this method a few months back).
We enjoy placing the bird directly on top of some potatoes or other root vegetables — killing 2 birds with one stone (so to speak). As the bird roasts, the vegetables are seasoned and flavored with the juices and get crispy at the bottom of the pan. It’s totally a win-win! Believe us: once you’ve spatchcocked, you’ll never go back!
Our Favorite Roast Chicken
Plan ahead to spatchcock and season the bird overnight or the morning before you plan to roast the bird. This allows time for the seasoning to really penetrate and the salt to do it’s magic and tenderize the meat. For crispy skin don’t cover the seasoned bird with plastic wrap… refrigerating the hen uncovered will allow the skin to dry out. If you’re a crispy skin fanatic (like we are) wait to oil the bird until just before you roast it too!
1 Cornish Game Hen (defrosted if frozen)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2-3 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
6 red potatoes, halved
Special equipment: Poultry shears
Preheat the oven to 400℉.
On a cutting board, place the hen breast-side down. Use the poultry shears to cut along one side of the backbone from the tail to the neck. Cut along the other side and remove the backbone. Set aside. Open up the hen and flip it back over so it’s breast-side up again. Use your palms to press down on the breast bone to flatten. Use the poultry shears to snip off the wing tips at the joint. Set it aside with the backbone for making stock later.
Sprinkle the hen with salt and pepper and rub all over both sides with vegetable oil. Rest bird at room temperature for 20 minutes or refrigerate overnight uncovered.
Arrange the halved potatoes in the bottom of a shallow pan large enough to hold the hen and potatoes; season with salt, pepper, and drizzle with oil. Transfer the hen to the pan and place it directly on top of the potatoes. Roast for 45 minutes, rotating once during cooking. The internal cooked temperature of the bird should be 165℉ when an instant-read thermometer is inserted into the thickest part of the breast. Remove from the oven and let the bird rest, tented with foil for 5-10 minutes.
To serve, cut the bird in half, lengthwise and serve each person a half. Divide the potatoes and garnish with a mojo verde sauce or gremolata.
You can muscle through spatchcocking with ordinary scissors or a knife, but it’s a whole lot easier with an inexpensive pair of poultry shears.
Be careful not to overcook the bird…. we usually take an internal temperature after 30 minutes to determine how far along we are in the roasting process.
The potatoes should be done at the same time as the chicken, but the potatoes underneath the bird won’t have browned. Remove the bird from the oven to rest and leave the potatoes in for an additional 5-10 minutes.