COOKING ADVENTURE #23: Cornish Game Hen With Rosemary and Garlic
Don’t tell me. I know what your immediate thought is. The picture above is not a Cornish Game Hen. That is because the place where I saw the Cornish Game Hens at, had an apparent shortage of them. So I grabbed a chicken instead. And it was a relatively small chicken compared to what was there in my opinion, probably a 2-3 pounder. Had it been a CGH, this recipe might have been easier. But instead, it turned violent and quite quickly, I might add. I thought I had everything all worked out when I shoved that stupid bird in the oven. Found out later that the chicken was harboring a secret from me, one which nearly cost me my sanity. [Warning: for those of you with sensitive stomachs, proceed with extreme caution.]
I’d bought the chicken last week and thrown it in the freezer. I figured, “Heck, I’m not going to attempt this recipe until next week, so I’ll just store it there and it’ll be fine!” Monday at about noon, I took it out of the freezer and placed it in the fridge to thaw. It was in that fridge until Tuesday around 5:30. And when I pulled it out and plunked it down in a tinfoil-shielded baking dish, I realized with much anger that it was still frozen. But there was something much more pressing to take care of before I could continue. I had to get it out of the plastic.
This took much longer than it should have. I snagged a knife from one of the drawers and cut a long line all the way around the chicken and then one vertically through it. Then, I peeled back the plastic until it all came off. I make it sound easier than how it actually was. I was ripping off several little pieces before I could manage to get the entire thing off. When the plastic was disposed of, I tenderly tugged at the wings, just to see how frozen the bird actually was. It had thawed nicely up toward the head end. But when I went to try and pry the drumsticks away at the tail end, I encountered resistance. Those things weren’t going to move. The sheen of ice was still there.
I decided that I would put it in the oven to thaw for another 10 minutes before I actually started following the directions. So into the oven it went at 450. I washed my hands and returned to eating crackers for the time being and checking emails. When the time was up, I returned to the kitchen and hauled out the bird. The skin had already tinged brown but at least the thing wasn’t as frozen as it had been. However, when I moved the legs away to get a glimpse at the inside of the bird, I noted that it looked sealed shut. I was very confused. I decided though that I wouldn’t try to stuff the thing like I’d previously planned to. I didn’t have all of the ingredients to do that anyway.
I poured some olive oil across the skin of the chicken and rubbed it all over. The sudden image of my chicken at a spa having oil rubbed all over it comes to my mind for some reason. Creepy. I then took my black pepper and dashed a pretty hefty dose of it across the skin. Then I followed up with salt. The sprigs of rosemary in this recipe was supposed to have been put inside the chicken along with a lemon wedge. Not being able to get inside, I just took my bottle of rosemary leaves and sprinkled them over the chicken skin generously. Then, I took my lemon juice and squeezed it all over the skin. Into the oven it went again, still at 45o for about 25 minutes.
When the buzzer went off and I yanked the baking dish out of the oven with the chicken sizzling in its strange pink/brown juices, I made a horrifying discovery. The cavity had thawed that I could now make out why I couldn’t get into it before. What I thought had been the sheen of ice had actually been the sheen of plastic. Yes. Plastic. And as I discovered when I punctured said plastic with a fork, it was a bag containing bloody innards. To keep it brief folks, I wasn’t very hungry after I realized this. But now came the question of how to get the blasted thing out.
My patience thinned as I tried every trick in the book to remove this thing. You see, it might have been easier if the bag hadn’t caught on the chicken’s spine. Oh, yes. You read that correctly. There was no way I could get this thing out. And oh, I tried. I had several forks and knives that I used to try and pry this thing out. Finally after spending a good 15 minutes, I decided to do the right thing. I called my parents.
I was on the phone with them for a good 10 minutes. My mom’s advice, which came after the line, “I don’t know what’s going on inside that chicken,” was to put it in a bowl in the microwave to defrost the thing at a low temperature. Problem is… I’ve never used my microwave to defrost ANYTHING. I use it to reheat my coffee in the morning or cook the occasional frozen dinner. The big risk was that the plastic might melt (which I was surprised that it hadn’t already). Another thing I learned, is that ordinarily, they wrap the innards with paper and put them inside… not plastic. So why in God’s name did some moron put them in plastic?! I will never know.
I decided to tinker with the microwave’s settings after I was off the phone to see if I could understand the defrost option on it. I didn’t. It had two settings Def 1 and Def 2. I had no idea where the instructions were and didn’t want to dig through a bunch of papers to try and find them. So, I resorted to the old-fashioned violent method. I slid my steak knife from the drawer and literally cut open the chicken from bottom to top, along the spine. I was mad. I hacked away at that chicken until I could properly wrench open both sides, and pull out the gorey plastic trophy. I hucked it in the trash with satisfaction and stood back to gaze at the chicken. It looked as though I’d performed a brutal open heart surgery on it.
Not really knowing what else to do at that point, I progressed with the recipe. I poured a combination of chicken stock, Pinot Grigio white wine, and more oil across the bird. Then, I dashed more rosemary and lemon juice inside. I topped it all off by putting five garlic cloves into the pan with the chicken and then pushed it back into the oven for another 25 minutes. I poured myself a glass of wine and sat down to wait for it. 25 minutes passed very slowly. I took the chicken out, took a spoon to the broth and dribbled it over the chicken. The skin by this time had become brown and crispy and the thing smelled scrumptious even if it looked awful.
It ended up back in the oven for longer because a chicken takes longer to cook than a Cornish Game Hen, even one that’s been massacred by a knife, such as this one. Finally at 8:15, I took the chicken out of the oven for the last time, carved off a decent helping of it’s right side, and sat down to eat. And it tasted marvelous.
But… oh, man. I was still haunted by what I’d endured earlier. I was so haunted that for some strange reason, I was attacked by a bird in my dream that night. Except it wasn’t a chicken. It was an ostrich. And it was furious. It was like the chicken called out a hit on me in my dream. In light of that terrifying experience, I think it will be a long while before I attempt to cook a whole chicken like that again.
Next week on Cooking Adventures, we’ll be making what has been called “the best bread pudding ever.” Frankly, folks, I’m excited about this one. Bread Pudding with a Kahlua Sauce (courtesy of The Ravenous Couple and Simply Recipes) will be next week. Stay tuned!