When it comes to Thanksgiving, it’s all about the turkey. But cooking a very large bird over several hours can be quite stressful. It also is overkill if you’re hosting only a few people or flying solo.
A simple and festive alternative is Cornish game hens. Also known as Rock Cornish hens, they’re a breed of chicken that weighs no more than 2 pounds. They’re ideal for single servings and available year round in the frozen chicken section.
They cook up fast and are ultra moist and tender – no slaving over the oven and worrying about them drying out like you would with a turkey. I’ve been wanting to try game hens with one of my favorite cooking methods for chicken: beer-can style.
It’s where you cut off the top of an empty beer can, fill it with aromatics and beer, and prop a seasoned chicken on it by its cavity. It roasts in the oven or grill and creates a juicy and flavorful bird. Since the can props up the chicken, it roasts evenly with all-around golden and crisp skin.
The only issue I had was finding a beer can small enough to fit the cavity of a game hen, so I gave it a try using White Claw, which has a taller and slender can. White Claw is a popular alcoholic seltzer water and is available in a variety of flavors.
I used raspberry, but any flavor of your liking can be used as it’s mainly used to steam and add moisture while the aromatics incorporate the flavor. I added lemon, onion, garlic and rosemary along with a splash Worcestershire sauce to the can before pouring in the seltzer again.
The game hens, which are rubbed with olive oil and seasoned with a mixture of garlic powder, parsley flakes, kosher salt, lemon pepper, paprika and fresh ground pepper, fit the cans perfectly. After about 1 hour in the oven, they were gorgeous and crisp.
They offer the classic flavors of the holiday without the stress. And with each guest getting their own succulent bird, it makes for an impressive and elegant presentation – the giant turkey won’t be missed at all.
White Claw Game Hens
4 White Claws, flavor of choice
1 small lemon, quartered
1/2 onion, quartered
4 garlic cloves
4 sprigs of rosemary
4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
4 game hens
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and arrange the oven racks to fit the game hens seated on White Claw cans. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and set aside.
Open the White Claws and pour them into a pitcher or large bowl, then set aside.
Using a knife, carefully cut 2 inches off the top of each can and fill each can with a quarter of the lemon, onion, garlic clove, rosemary sprig and teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce. Place cans on the baking sheet and fill each with reserved White Claw about 1 inch from the top.
Combine all spices together in a small bowl and set aside. Thoroughly pat dry game hens. Rub each with olive oil and coat with spice mix.
Slide each game hen cavity onto a can using the legs and the can as a tripod for balance. Carefully and slowly place in the middle of oven. Cook for 1 hour, or until the thickest part of the thigh reads 160 to 165 degrees.
Let rest for about 10 minutes before removing the can. Carefully lift the game hens off the cans using tongs and oven-safe gloves, transfer to cutting board, carve and serve.
Audrey Alfaro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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