Hi all, we’ve made it to another month... which means another month in our kitchens cooking delicious meals for our families. I wanted to share one of my favorite “kid friendly“ meals. Something I always like to do is to find new things that my little guy loves and I have found a few tricks along the way. Drew loves to be involved in his meals, whether that means helping cook, setting the table, preparing his own plate or even getting to use his hands to dig in. That’s where this recipe comes in to play.
When I was young, the year before my family bought our first grocery store, my parents took us on a family vacation to Branson, Missouri. If you’ve never been to Branson, let me set the scene. Branson is a family show place, there are tons of family friendly shows. My very favorite was Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede. The Dixie Stampede is a dinner show, each guest enjoys their meal while a civil war era show takes place in the arena below you. I will never forget the meal, or at least the main course. Each guest was served their very own Cornish Hen, and to fit in with the Civil War era theme... no silverware in site. There was something entirely taboo for eating that little hen with my hands. Being raised in a very strict ”manners on at all times” household, it was extremely liberating to tear into that bird with my fingers knowing I wouldn’t be in trouble for it later.
Any time I can tie a memory into a meal is a win for me, so I can promise you any time I fix Cornish Hens at home it takes me straight back to being a little girl in Branson Missouri eating my bird with my fingers. This is something Drew loves when I make this recipe as well, he too is raised in a home where manners are a priority. I always see a glimmer of mischief cut across his face when he finds out that we are having them for dinner. Incorporating a little fun into your meal time can make all the difference for getting your little to eat big. I hope you and your family enjoy this uninhibited meal as much as we do.
Most of the time, Cornish Hens can be found packaged two hens each in your local grocery store. Sometimes, they will be sold as singles. I usually plan for half a hen for each member of my family but, if you have big eaters then plan for one hen each. I like to season my chickens with McCormick’s Lemon Pepper seasoning as well as Trader Joe’s Everything But The Bagel seasoning for an added crunch but you may season your birds with your favorite seasonings. Adding in some smoked paprika always adds great flavor as well. Once seasoned, I lay my birds on top of a mixture of chopped onions, garlic and slices of whatever citrus I have on hand. You may use lemons, limes or oranges. Most of my recipes are made with whatever I have on hand at the time and I like having that flexibility in my kitchen. Piling up the onions, garlic and citrus acts as a bed for the hens and doubles as a baking rack. Placing your hens on top of the citrus lets your birds get that extra crispy and delicious skin, but you could certainly place citrus slices on top of the birds for added flavor as well. If you have let over citrus, feel free to stuff the leftovers inside your hens while cooking., Adding fresh thyme or rosemary to your onion and citrus bed will also add some extra flavor.
Bake the Hens for 50 minutes-1 hour in a preheated 425 degree oven. Make sure you watch the hens in the last 15 minutes of baking, if your hens are turning too dark and crispy make sure you lay a tin foil “tent” on top to help them from browning too quickly. After an hour of baking time, I use my digital meat thermometer to make sure they are done. Their internal temperature should reach 165 degrees F At the thickest part of your hen. Remove then hens from the oven and let the hens rest for about 15 minutes. Once rested, take a sharp kitchen knife and halve the hens. I like to serve mine with mashed potatoes or mashed parsnips and drizzle the pan drippings and onions on top along with a small salad.
Peel and cut parsnips into cubes. Bring 4-5 Cups of milk to a slow boil. You may also boil in chicken or vegetable broth. Boil parsnips until soft. Drain the parsnips from milk but save the milk you drained to use when you mash your parsnips. Place the parsnips into a small food processor or use an electric mixer to mash. Once mashed, add in 4 tbsp of butter and add reserved milk sparingly until you reach your desired consistency. Salt and pepper to taste. I always like to add some fresh basil or parsley to mine as well for added flavor. Mashed parsnips are a great substitute for traditional mashed potatoes.
I hope that you and your family enjoy this simple recipe and that you let your kids live a little and eat with their fingers once in awhile!