Holiday Hens

We had a very low-key Easter for the third year in a row. Three years ago, J had just graduated the police academy and had to work on Easter. Last year, he had just gotten back from military leave and had to work on Easter. This year, he got back from military leave the day before Easter, and he didn’t have to work but he was exhausted and wanted to lounge around the house with no company. Which is fine by me – I love all my relatives dearly, but having overnight guests and making huge holiday meals takes effort.

Since I wasn’t feeding a ton of people, I wanted to experiment with an ingredient that wasn’t going to be too difficult, but was unique enough to count as a ‘special’ holiday dinner. I decided on Cornish hens – they’re frequently mentioned on creative dinner party menus because they’re small enough to serve one bird per one guest, but being a whole bird, you can still get that ‘special occasion’ feeling by stuffing it and roasting it. Plus, don’t they just sound all pretentious – not a chicken or a turkey or even just a plain old hen, but Cornish Hens. Like a fowl Duke of Corning, not suited to share a coop with the roosters.

But I digress. I used this recipe for the hens. And they turned out amazingly well. The meat itself is rather bland – much more similar to the blank flavor of a chicken than a turkey or a duck. Without creative seasoning, they would be boring. But this recipe instructs you to stuff the hen with lemon wedges and onion. The only deviation from the recipe that I did was to use red onion instead of green onion – I already needed a red onion, and when I buy green onions I never use them all in time and end up throwing them away. But the lemon and red onion combination on the inside really infused the breast with the flavors of both, and the fresh sage created aromatic, crispy, flavorful skin.

I didn’t have time to snap many artful pictures before J pounced on his plate and inhaled the hen in about 4.2 seconds. When all that was left were bones and worn out lemon wedges, he raved about how flavorful the meat was and how convenient the portion size was, and even questioned me on how difficult it was to make and how much they cost before requesting them for the next bird-roast-worthy-holiday.

For our sides, I put some baby red potatoes in the bottom of the roasting pan, as directed by the recipe. Because the juice from the hens aren’t too flavorful, we had to throw some extra seasoning on the potatoes when it was time to serve them. But on the flip side, not a lot of grease come off the hens, which made the potatoes a lighter dish than you’d usually get from roasting potatoes in the juice from the roasting protein. I also threw together a tomato and cucumber salad with a simple vinaigrette – you can get the recipe here. Quick, healthy, and light enough to balance out a heavier main dish.

Bona Pasqua!