All chicken or meat recipes handed down in my family always involve a pressure cooker. Including roasts. Never an oven, never a sauté pan.
Also I’ve never seen my mom or grandma or aunt cook a whole bird. Thanksgiving celebrations and turkey gobbling/ cooking are adopted traditions- artifacts of the country that we adopted and I’m raising my family in. Needless to say, I learned to cook turkey on the fly. in business school when some of us- international students were the only ones staying back in our deserted college town, my friend decided to cook turkey and invite all the classmates who didn’t go home. And it immediately became my responsibility to cook the turkey. Why? Who knows! The first time I cooked turkey I was handed a 24 lb bird. Not funny.
I don’t know what I was thinking. But the bird turned out well-seasoned and extremely succulent with a crispy skin. Beginners luck? I hope not.
Our turkeys always turned out good ever since.
But this post is about our Christmas dinner- Cornish hens with a spicy fruity glaze.
Now Christmas (as opposed to Thanksgiving) has been a part of my Catholic-schooled-Indian-Hindu-family/ culture/ life for generations. Trees were decked, gifts wrapped, chicken roasted and laden with mashed potatoes and gravy. Every. Single. Year. At my grandparents.
This year has been the first of many things and not the first of so many more. The first time I’m making a family Christmas dinner, instead of my grandma. But the menu’s the same- except it’s a whole bird instead of cut pieces of a bird. The first time I’m “decking the halls” as a mom, for the family that I started. Remembering all those times fondly when I eagerly set up the trees with my mom. It’s the first time I’m roasting Cornish hens. But I’ve cooked so many turkeys by now, this almost feels natural.
Here’s how I cooked my hens:
Butter (3-4 tbsp qty depends on your bird size)
Olive oil (qty depends on your bird size)
Dry spices and seasonings: Rosemary, thyme, oregano, parsley, freshly ground black pepper & salt
Corn syrup or maple syrup 3 tbsp
Water (for consistency)
Cayenne pepper or red chilli pepper (to taste)
Fruit jam preferably apricot (1/2 tbsp)
Mix butter, oil and spices at room temperature to make marinade.
Preheat oven to 400F
Clean the birds very well including the insides.
Make 1-2 tiny slits in the skin at the breast and back, so you can separate the skin from the flesh by your finger but take care NOT to remove skin. Do the same near the thighs. Marinade the flesh without removing the skin, push enough spice mixture inside the cavity.
Marinade for 30 minutes or overnight depending on how deep you want the flavors. I have a baby and time is precious (very) so I didn’t marinade it for long.
Grease your pan and place hens then roast for 40 minutes.
Meanwhile make glaze by mixing syrup, jam, water and chilli/cayenne pepper until thick like syrup.
At 40 minutes, take out the pan (leave oven on) and remove the drippings, as much as you can. Then brush glaze on chicken generously and return to oven for 15 more minutes.
At the end of the 55 minutes, switch off oven but let the bird sit inside for another 5 minutes. Then take it out, remove rest of the drippings and serve hot.
(My mom’s recipe)
Mix salt, pepper, flour (1tbsp to start with… She doesn’t believe in measuring while cooking which is why every recipe is a secret recipe in this family) and chicken broth.
Add this to simmering drippings and simmer until desired consistency.
The drippings also make amazing chicken soup.