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Cornish Game Hens

  • t

I recently was challenged with the question: has any body ever seen one and why are they always frozen. Does anybody out there know where and even how they are raised and why they can never be had fresh.

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  1. Have never seen one live but my butcher here in Montreal often has them fresh.

    Background info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornish_...

    1 Reply
    1. re: carswell

      Thank you for your quick observation. I live in the deep south and have lived in the northeast and never saw them fresh. Lucky you, I bet they are delicious.

    2. Whole Foods has them fresh, I believe. As to why they're usually frozen, perhaps because they're not popular enough to keep a fresh supply in stock, but frozen will keep? (Just a guess.)

      1. Both Bell & Evans and Perdue have them fresh in CT. The BEs are much smaller than Perdue's.

        These are great for company or large holiday dinners. People love them and they can be halved, placed on a large cookie sheet and when salad is served, throw them in a 425 oven for 25 minutes for perfect timing. People are so impressed eating "little chickens" and always rave with a little mustard sauce, and some sides.

        5 Replies
        1. re: jfood

          We always have them fresh, even at the most pedestrian supermarkets, but I am also in the NorthEast.

          Cornish Hens were the first dinner I'd ever made for my (now) husband - I'm glad to see them mentioned because it reminds me to make them again soon. Of course, we call them Upside Down chickens because while my first attempt was very flavorful I realized at serving time that I'd roasted them bottom's up!

          1. re: Kater

            Thank You for clarifing one of Life's Great Mysteries - I had always thought "bottoms up" referred to something else.....

            1. re: JBC

              <<I had always thought "bottoms up" referred to something else.....>>

              Not to Cornish Game Hens, they're on the wagon!

              Oh - for the poster who finds them bland (agreed) try roasting them with an Indian inspired rub or marinate them with lemongrass, garlic, cilantro, and fish sauce.

            2. re: Kater

              Victor Borge, the pianist/comic used to raise them commercially somewhere in Connecticut.

              1. re: Kater

                i always do that... invariably i throw together the chicken or hens, and my mom comes in and gives me a hard time because i still don't know which end is up.

            3. Kill me, but CGHs completely underwhelm me. Pretty bland stuff.

              If you want to do game birds, try wood pigeons, partridge, pheasant, even squab. You can get them at:

              http://www.dartagnan.com

              6 Replies
              1. re: Bostonbob3

                They're not really game birds, despite the name, so they're not going to have a "game" taste. They're basically little chickens (you learn a lot talking to a butcher!) Seriously, google them, it's a breed of chicken.

                1. re: writergirl

                  I agree. That's why I suggested "real" game birds. My favs are the Scottish Wood Pigeons.

                  They do take a bit getting used to when their HUGE talons slowly unfold from their body cavities.

                  Nearly gave me a heart attack the first time. :)

                  1. re: writergirl

                    Despite the name implying that they are a distinct hybrid of a Cornish chicken, quite often they're just immature roosters of whatever commercial egg or fryer breeds are being raised predominantly by that poultry house. It's a way of getting rid of a bird that will not serve in the future as a layer or fryer or roaster. So in fact, your Cornish Game Hen is not necessarily Cornish, is definitely not game, and most of the time isn't even a hen.

                    1. re: Loren3

                      But do they taste good? You make it sound so uneatable.

                      1. re: Tonto

                        Their most appealing feature is their succulence, their juiciness. Their flavour per se is pleasant but rather bland, which is one reason why they're often prepared with fruit, spice and other flavourful ingredients.

                        1. re: Tonto

                          I never meant to imply that they are anything less than edible - it's just one of those marketing names made up to make a product sound more exotic and desireable. Think of it as what it is, a little baby roaster. As carswell states, with the right additions, they can be quite tasty. And they make a perfect single-serving meal when you're in the mood for a roasted chicken but don't want the whole big thing.

                  2. I've seen them on farms. They're just a small breed of chicken, a cross between Cornish and Plymouth Rock chickens. I have heard that small regular chickens are sometimes sold as Cornish hens. I occasionally run across fresh ones in markets.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: JMF

                      Specifically a cross between a White Cornish rooster and broiler-type White Plymouth Rock hens. Cornish chickens were originally bred as gamecocks for cock fighting and are rather stocky with a wide stance, feathers tight to the body and wide breasts. Both of these breeds are big as chickens go, so the cross produces large roasters if the chickens are given some time to grow. The little birds sold as cornish game hens are much younger than normal broilers, hence the small size and lack of flavor. Age is the reason stewing hens have more flavor than broilers.

                    2. I think they are flavorful. I like dark meat, and cornish hens breasts actually tastes as juicy as the dark meat in chicken.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: JoLi

                        Juicy, eh, maybe. No way it's as flavorful as dark meat chicken.

                      2. If you can find Kosher game hens, try those - I used to get Empire kosher ones in Nashville, though of course always frozen. A little bigger than the usual ones, and the brining does wonders for the flavor and succulence.

                        If you presalt them (defrosted or fresh) and grease'em well with oil or butter, and make sure they're at room temp before they go into the oven, and roast them for JUST long enough at a high heat, they are wonderfully succulent and flavorful.

                        1. Funny this topic should come up - we're having them done in the oven tonight, stuffed just like a roaster. I agree on the overall juiciness of these birds! Here in VT Shaw's carries fresh Perdue hens and Price Chopper carries frozen Tysons - the edge in flavor and freshness goes to the Tysons. But... in the summer I cut out the backbone, tail, and cut off the wing tips, then flatten the bird at the breastbone and cook 'em butterflied on the grill - flavored with olive oil and a rub. Medium heat, indirect method, skin side down for 20 minutes than turn 'em for an addtional 25 minutes. TURNING THEM IS THE ONLY TIME I OPEN THE GRILL!!! Our guests beg for more!!!