Sichuan Cornish Hens
Are you here because you want to know what a Cornish Game Hen is, and what a recipe looks like that calls for Cornish Game Hen over a regular old roasting chicken? According to the USDA, any chicken that is chosen for processing when it is 5 weeks old (or younger) and weighs two pounds or less can be called a Cornish Game Hen. This recipe is easily adaptable for a single roasting chicken that's roughly the same weight as the two Cornish hens we used, combined. All you'll have to do to cook one, four-pound chicken is adjust the total roasting time. We were inspired to create an appropriate Thanksgiving centerpiece for smaller gatherings, or for anyone who wants to make a beautiful dinner and are only cooking for two (or one). Two Cornish hens normally serve two adults, but if you’re loading up on a lot of side dishes (the beauty of Thanksgiving, no?) you could possibly opt to share one bird for two adults if you like equal parts chicken, potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce… you get the idea.
Our recipe also has a Sichuan (also known as “Szechuan”) twist. Sichuan is a style of cuisine from rural China that features complex flavors that balance each other, with a particular emphasis on garlic and a good deal of heat. What does that mean for you? Lots and lots of flavor! Bland chicken and turkey, be gone! Every step of the way we made lots of choices that built flavors on top of each other; we made marinade, we did some searing, we had a fancy sauce to go on the side, the whole nine yards. If you’re not able to get your hands on Shoaxing wine, cooking sherry is a fine substitute. Just don’t try to replace the star of our show- Sichuan Peppercorns! Sichuan Peppercorns are what gives this cuisine the signature “ma la” flavor it's known for. Sichuan Peppercorns are “spicy” in a sense, but perhaps a better word for them would be “zesty”- there’s heat in Sichuan peppercorns, but also a distinct prickling, tingling flavor that feels electric to the palate.
Need another reason to pull out your cast iron skillet? We recommend using your cast iron for this particular recipe; it employs two different cooking methods (searing and roasting) for which cast iron is excellent. Lastly, green onions are a perfect garnish for this dish as they give a lovely fresh crunch and a subtle touch of onion. At last, a holiday where you won’t be swamped with leftovers!
- In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, Shoaxing wine, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, Sichuan pepper, and red pepper flakes and mix well.
- Place Cornish hens in freezer bag, or a dish and pour marinade in. Seal or cover and marinate for at least 2 hours. Overnight is fine.
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- In an ovenproof skillet, heat 2 tsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the hens to the skillet and brown for 4 minutes on each side. Place skillet in oven, uncovered and breast side up. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
- Garnish with scallions and serve with Szechuan Hot Sauce.