My family hasn’t made a turkey for Thanksgiving in years. We just don’t love the big birds. But when my mother and I saw a photo of deep fried Cornish Game Hens over cheese grits in this month’s Garden & Gun Magazine – we were smitten with their cute-factor. Who wouldn’t want their own personal turkey on Thanksgiving? While we were worried about the ultimate flavor of the dish we forged forward and were very surprised about how delicious they turned out.
We think the key to this dish is the brining process. It adds extra flavor and moisture to the birds. It takes a little advance preparation but is totally worth the time. I recommend picking up any poultry brine mix and making it according to their directions. Frying is also a labor of love. It took longer than expected but was a great conversation piece in the kitchen with guests and allows extra time for drinking wine and catching up.
This recipe is for special occasions. It’s an over-the-top menu for friends who love an elaborate feast! Enjoy!
Brined & Deep Fried Cornish Game Hen
- 2 Cornish hens (1 lb each)
- poultry brine spices (available at The Fresh Market or other spice stores)
- 1/2 cup flour
- salt and pepper (don’t forget the brine is highly salted if using)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- vegetable oil or peanut oil (for frying)
Frying prep: You’ll need a tall narrow pot that will accommodate two hens with oil and still not be much more than half full. To see if your pot is big enough, put the hens in and fill with water to cover the hens. Make sure they can move easily and they are not tightly packed into the pot. Remove them and check water level. The water level is the amount of oil you will need to deep fry the hens.
For brining: Make brine from pre-made mix. Rinse hens well with cold water. Add to cooled brine. Put them in a tall canister type bowl and the brine covered them completely. Refrigerate overnight. Remove from the refrigerator 1 hour prior to cooking. Pour off brine and dry the hens with paper towels inside and out (important to keep oil from boiling over.). Leave them in a colander to drain and come up to room temperature. DO NOT LEAVE THEM SITTING AT ROOM TEMPERATURE. Once they reach room temperature, you need to go ahead and cook them.
For frying: Heat oil to 375º. While oil is heating, mix 1/2 cup flour with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Lightly coat the first hen in the seasoned flour and shake off excess. When the oil reaches 375º, hold the hen by the legs and slowly lower it into the hot oil. Do this slowly to prevent the oil from boiling over. Once the first hen is lowered completely, coat the second hen. By the time you have the second hen coated, the oil temp should have come back up a little and you can go ahead and lower it into the oil with the other hen. Move the hens around making sure all sides are cooking evenly. The hens cook completely in 25 minutes or less. They will be a light golden brown. To hold the hens for 30 minutes, heat oven to 200º while frying and place a wire rack over a pan. Place the hens on wire rack in warmed oven.