Cornish game hens are like a small plump chicken. Game hens (4 to 5 weeks old) are a cross between a Plymouth Rock hen and a Cornish game cock and excellent for 1 to 2 servings.Game hens are most often sold frozen. Thaw poultry in the refrigerator in its original wrapping with a plate underneath in case of dripping, it is important that the bird remain cold while thawing, estimating 24 hours thaw time per 5 pounds; parts will thaw in half a day. Never buy frozen poultry that has frozen liquid in the package, an indication of being frozen after sitting or refrozen. Freeze poultry about 9 to 10 months maximum.
Never use room temperature poultry; it will reach the correct temperature as the slow cooker heats up. Unless a recipe specifically calls for it, never use frozen poultry directly into the slow cooker since it will take much longer to reach a safe cooking temperature than defrosted refrigerated poultry.
Here is a basic recipe for crock-roasting and cooked with a stuffing on one side and sweet potatoes on the other. It was created by my friend Mary Cantori on one of her yearly camping trips in a Dutch oven on her camp stove and was so delicious, she made it again immediately upon returning home in the slow cooker. Mary makes her own cornbread, but I have substituted packaged stuffing mix for its easy availability. It is finished off with one of Mary’s a la momento sauces that are just perfect.
Cooker: Large Oval
Machine Setting and Cook Time: Low Heat: 6 to 7 hours
Serves 2 to 4 (depending if you want a whole or half hen)
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1/2 cup chopped celery (include some leaves)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 (6-ounce) package pre-cut cornbread stuffing mix (NOT cornbread mix but cornbread STUFFING mix)
- 1 medium apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves
- 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth, or just to moisten
- 1 to 2 tablespoons light olive oil
- 2 Cornish game hens, rinsed in cold water, patted dry
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1/2 cup peach preserves
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (not garlic salt)
- Pinch of cayenne
1. Place the onion and celery in a skillet with the butter and sauté until soft, 3 minutes. Place the dry stuffing mix in a bowl and add the apple, onion mixture, cilantro, cranberries, sage, and enough broth just to moisten; mix with a large spoon or your hands. Spray the crock with non-stick vegetable cooking spray and add half of the stuffing into the bottom.
2. To split each game hen, place the bird, breast side up, on a cutting surface. Holding the bird with one hand and using kitchen shears with the other, cut the breast in half, starting from the neck end. Turn the bird over and cut down both sides of the back bone, as close as possible, leaving two halves; discard the backbone or use for soup stock. Season the hen halves with salt and pepper.
3. In a large skillet over medium-high heat (you can use the same skillet you cooked the onions in) with a tablespoon of oil, sear the game hens on the skin side, about 2 minutes. Arrange the hens overlapping, bone side down, side by side, on top of the stuffing, then pack the remaining stuffing all around one side. Place the sweet potatoes around the other side.
4. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 7 hours, until hens and potatoes are tender and juices run clear when the meat is pierced with a knife. The internal temperature will be 185º.
5. To make the sauce, place the broth in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the preserves, balsamic vinegar, garlic powder, and cayenne; lower heat and simmer 5 minutes. Serve a half hen with stuffing and sweet potatoes, spooning over some sauce. Refrigerate cooked poultry within 2 hours of cooking, never letting it come to room temperature first before refrigerating.
Excerpted from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Family Favorites, by Beth Hensperger. (c) 2009, used by permission from the Harvard Common Press.
Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2015
Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.