One of my favourite sources of protein is poultry. I think I’m not alone in this decision, but it’s not exactly a party up in here either. I don’t know too many people who could just eat chicken, and not any other kind of living protein source, but I could. To me, the humble little birds are a blank palette of flavour just waiting to be accented. There is so much you can do with those little guys.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I realize beef, pork, lamb, etc. all have countless variations in cut, flavour and texture. But I’ll tell you a little secret…I used to be a vegetarian. GASP! I know! For a while there in my early twenties, I ate no animal proteins. I worked at an amazing restaurant that served all locally sourced beef and chicken, but you wouldn’t find me eating any of it, no way. Let’s just say that after a few years of tofu, eggs and beans, my inner culinary goddess struggled free. I wanted some steak! Ribs! Chops! MEAT! And so, I went back to being an omnivore. I no longer eat meat everyday, like when I was living at home with my parents, but I do try to make meat dishes at least 3 times a week. This satisfies the husband, and also allows for wiggle room in the budget. Meat ain’t cheap around these parts.
And so it was last weekend, we found ourselves in the Cowichan Valley Meat Market (I did take pictures, but it was a no no, so I’m not posting them). This place is a carnivore’s dream. You crave it, they’ve got it. Every cut of the animal makes it to the coolers and it’s all locally raised, slaughtered and butchered. While I was perusing the aisles, I came across some of my favourite poultry, Cornish Rock Hens. I love that they are personal sized, everyone gets dark and white meat. No fighting over the thighs, no one complaining that all they got was breast. You all get your own, one bird each.
When I began my culinary training in high school, Cornish Rock Hens (or Cornish Game Hens) were the first dish I made for my parents. Stuffed with lemons and rosemary, they were a hit! This time, I’ve roasted them with a little seasoning and served them with my favourite end of summer salad, Insalata Caprese. If you can’t find Cornish hens near you, this recipe works just as well with regular old chicken too.
Prosciutto Wrapped Roasted Cornish Game Hens and Insalata Caprese
Serves 2 adults
2 Cornish Game Hens (aproximatle 1-2 lbs. each)
4 slices Prosciutto
Herbs to sprinkle (I used basil, oregano and sage)
Salt & Pepper
1. Clean the hens and pat dry. Sprinkle skin with herbs, salt and pepper. (You could rub a little oil or butter on as well, although the Prosciutto will add it’s own fat during cooking.)
2. Wrap Prosciutto around body, tucking ends under back and setting bird breast side up on roasting pan with removable wire rack.
3. Roast in the centre of a 375°F oven for about 1 hour. Or until a meat thermometer registers 170°F at the thickest part of the thigh at the breast.
4. Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. You can serve whole, or if you have a timid carver, carve before serving.
Isalata Caprese (Tomato Bocconcini Salad)
1 180g tub of Bocconcini Pearls
4 Vine Ripened Tomatoes, cubed
1/4 cup basil, torn into small pieces
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. Crema di Balsamico ( A sweetened condensed version of Balsamic Vinegar)
salt & pepper
1. Add all ingredients to a medium sized bowl, toss and allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving.
To carve your Hens, start at the leg. Slice downward into the thigh, next to the body cavity. It should come away from the bone quite easily. Once the legs are off, slice through the breast near the wing and take those off too. Then start slicing through the breast, making little steaks. Don’t forget the “oysters’. These are little pockets of juicy dark meat in the back near where the thigh bone connects to the body. As a chef, I would always steal the oysters for myself when carving chickens. It is the chef’s payment for all the hard work!
Leftovers are rare in this house, but if someone in your family can’t polish off their own bird (a child maybe), try making a chicken salad spread for crackers. Easy to pack up and have for lunch the next day. Caprese salad does not save well, so I would recommend finishing that the night you make it. Happy Roasting!