Cornish hens in cider offer elegant presentation with a seasonal twist

11/12/2013 2:17 PM

11/12/2013 2:17 PM

When it comes to keeping portion sizes in check, Cornish hens are a shoo-in.

A hybrid between Cornish and White Rock chickens, the resulting miniature poultry typically weighs just 1 to 2 pounds, enough to serve two people.

The Cornish hens (also referred to as Rock Cornish game hens) arrived on the scene in 1965 and were first marketed as a gourmet food by Tyson. While they continue to make an elegant presentation for entertaining, there’s no reason not to serve the roasted hens for a weeknight meal.

Just think of the hens as you would a little chicken, or for that matter as a teeny-tiny turkey. Either way, the roasting procedure is the same and because they’re so small, dinner is ready in an hour.

The Star’s recipe for Cornish Hens in Cider is low in sodium and high in protein. Although the total fat content is high, the amount of saturated fat is moderate. The cider keeps the lean (mostly breast) meat on the bird moist. The apples give the hens a seasonal spin while boosting the antioxidants and fiber content of the meal.

Shopping tip:

For testing, we used frozen 18-ounce birds from Tyson. Look for Cornish hens in the freezer case of most large supermarkets. Buy without giblets if possible and be sure to leave the birds in the refrigerator to defrost the night before you plan to make this recipe.

Cooking tips:

For a thicker sauce, remove apples and shallots from pan juices and simmer liquid until it is reduced by about half. Chefs typically call this a reduction and it concentrates the cider flavor.

To serve: After roasting, allow hen to stand 10 minutes. Pull leg away with a carving fork and, using a sharp knife, cut through to detach the leg and thigh. Repeat on other side. Cut straight down along one side of breast bone to carve off the remaining meat.

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