What’s up Blowhard readers? I’m back in the kitchen this week and ready to talk about game hens! My experience with game hens up to this point was pretty limited. My mom has a great Cornish game hen recipe that she makes for our family on Christmas Eve, but aside from that I really hadn’t given game hens too much thought. Until a few weeks ago anyway . . .
I don’t know how many of you know about WinCo, but for you Montana readers it is basically the best grocery store ever (read inexpensive and good produce, super reasonable deli counter, large bulk food section, awesomely cheap eggs and butter, gummy butterflies, etc.). Anyway, I was walking through WinCo and saw a whole freezer full of game hens (they are $2.50 a piece, score!) so I hopped on Pinterest and looked up some game hen recipes. They are pretty fun and very tasty. The big thing is that you can kinda feel fancy while eating game hens, but it won’t break the bank. A few weeks ago (before I started writing my weekly posts) I made a pretty awesome game hen recipe that I will talk about later. I had enough fun with that one that I decided to try a new one to tell you guys about!
This week the recipe of choice was Crockpot Stuffed Apple Bacon Cornish Hens. (Booya!) I was feeling like I needed some bacon in my life so this was a natural pick (economy bacon at WinCo is $2.98/lb. WHAT??). Overall the recipe was pretty easy to pull off; you don’t have to cook it for too long, and it tastes awesome! I call it a win. General idea is to thaw the game hens, make some stuffing, wrap the hens in bacon, cook the hens with bacon and stuffing for about 4 hours, pour the apple sauce mixture on top, keep cooking, and “Booya!” you have delicious hens on your plate. (What do you think about my catch phrase being “Booya!”? Kinda like Bam! but more fun.)
Pro tip: I have discussed this in previous posts, but I’ll say it again. Picking a recipe a day ahead of time can be pretty helpful because it gives you a chance to shop and also thaw ahead of time if needed. Plus, when you are using a slow cooker you might end up eating at 10pm if you aren’t prepared. (When I made this one, I did not follow my own advice at all, and dinner was ready at 9pm . . . heh.) Game hens are pretty small, but they can still take a little time to thaw. The recipe recommends putting them in the refrigerator the day before, but I just put them in cool water in the sink. I managed to get these bad boys thawed in probably an hour, but things got a little ridiculous. Let's just say I ended up running warm water through the game hen cavity for a while and was even desperate enough to put one of the hens in the microwave for a little bit (highly UN-recommended). Moral of the story, give your hens time to thaw . . .
Now, since it is a little early in the season, gluten free stuffing wasn’t exactly widely available so I kind of had to improvise. Good ol’ WinCo had some gluten free croutons, and I used those along with another recipe I found online to make my own stuffing (recipe posted below). I pretty much followed the recipe, except I did add a few stocks of chopped celery because I like it and I wanted to (that got a little defensive . . . ). Anyway, once the hens were stuffed and wrapped it was pretty easy going. My crock-pot only had room for two hens and all the extra stuffing fit in pretty well around them. The sauce is really simple and tasted great with everything else. Something to consider trying is adding apples to the stuffing as well. My mom has made stuffing with apples at Thanksgiving, and it is really tasty; I think it would be appropriate with this recipe too. The overall result wasn’t exactly as picture perfect as I expected. Basically you end up with a heaping pile of goo on your plate, but it is delicious goo (Booya!).
The original game hen recipe that I tried a few weeks ago was also a success and a lot of fun to make! I got a little more involved for that meal and made some sides too. The end result was Herb Bouquet-Stuffed Cornish Hens with a Marmalade Glaze, Brussel Sprouts & Bacon, and seasoned red potatoes (Booya!). I was pretty pleased with myself to say the least. I am a big fan of herbs so making the herb bouquets was a lot of fun. I won’t go into too much detail on this one, but if you do try it out I have two major tips for you:
1. Make sure you have a big enough roasting rack to fit all of your hens so that they ARE NOT TOUCHING. This is critically important because (as I learned the hard way) if they do not have enough room separating them, the hens won’t cook all the way in the spots where they are touching. Nobody got food poisoning (woo!), but there were a couple pink spots, and I’m not saying I had to put mine in the microwave before eating all of it . . . but I’m not saying I didn’t, if you catch my drift. Anyway, just make sure there is some space so they cook evenly.
2. Line your baking sheet with tin foil and then line it again. You definitely want to make sure that mother is really well covered because when you paint that marmalade glaze all over your delicious little hens, it is going to drip all over your baking sheet, caramelize, and then turn into orange flavored asphalt. Make sure that the foil reaches up the lip on the side or you are going to have problems. (Can you tell I learned the hard way on this one too?) This one turned out a little more picture perfect (even if you can totally tell which side was under cooked).
Overall, I would recommend both recipes. They were very different but also very enjoyable. Let me know if you try one. Enjoy!
1. Crockpot Stuffed Apple Bacon Cornish Hens
3. Herb Bouquet Stuffed Cornish Hens with a Marmalade Glaze
4. Brussel Sprouts & Bacon