Monday, December 6, 2010

Fried Cornish Hen

Deep within myself, I've been hiding a dark secret: I like eating cute things.  From teeny fowl, to diminutive french breakfast radishes, to dainty tea sandwiches -- and let's not forget anything falling into the "baby" vegetable category, except baby-cut carrots, which are not really a baby vegetable at all -- I'm fascinated with eating small things.  I could accuse my less-than-average stature of being the key to my fixation, but I think it's something more.  In a world of supersizing and an all-you-can-eat mentality, has something been lost in the balance of quantity versus quality?

I try to write recipes for a "Feeds 4" sort of audience, but the fact of the matter is I'm usually working in a "Feeds 2" world.  My husband and I love food, but we're not big eaters.  Most of the time, we don't make a full meal with a meat and two sides; we make a main dish (meat or not) and then maybe nibble on a snack later in the evening.  Today my apologies go out to my readers feeding four or more, but this recipe is targeting toward us smaller families.  Specifically, this recipe satisfies my need for: eating cute things, feeding only two people, and honoring my southern roots.

Those three things taken into consideration probably explain why I am so excited about this recipe.  The smaller hen takes just a few minutes to break down into breast, leg quarters, and wings.  And the smaller pieces cook in a fraction of time it takes a larger bird, so dinner is on the table in no time flat.  Then, there's the breading quotient - smaller pieces have a greater surface-to-mass ratio, meaning that there's more crunchy breaded goodness in every bite surrounding super-tender meat.  If you're a crunch-lover, that makes this recipe better than a big fried chicken any day of the week.

So next time you're at the market, searching for the biggest, most beastly bird of them all, remember that sometimes the little things can surprise you.



Buttermilk-Breaded Fried Cornish Hen
Serves 2

1 Two-pound cornish hen, cut into breast, leg, and wing sections
1 c. A/P flour
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
Dash (or two) cayenne pepper
3/4 c. buttermilk
Deep fryer or dutch oven with oil heated to 360 degrees Fahrenheit.

While oil is coming to temperature, combine flours, salt, pepper and cayenne in a pie plate or large shallow bowl.  Mix to combine.  Pour buttermilk into a similar shallow container.  Dip chicken pieces first in buttermilk, then in flour.  Shake pieces off lightly, then dip briefly in buttermilk a second time, and then flour again.  Set the pieces on a plate once breaded - place in the freezer for 5 minutes to allow the breading to set.

When oil has reached 360 degrees Fahrenheit, carefully drop leg sections into the oil.  Fry for 1 minute,  then add the breast pieces.  Let fry for another 3 minutes, then add the wings.  Fry 5-7 minutes more, until pieces are golden brown and cooked thoroughly - the inside of the thigh meat should register at 180 degrees, and the breast meat should register at 160 degrees.  Transfer finished chicken pieces to a paper-towel lined plate and salt and pepper lightly.  Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

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