Cornish Game Hens (aka Rock Cornish Hens) are a breed of very small chickens: they will only weigh about 1 or ½ pounds (225 to 450 g) after slaughtering (at about 4 to 6 weeks of age) and cleaning. Their flavour is just slightly stronger than that of regular chickens, but milder than that of quail or partridge. They are very tender and juicy. You need to allow one per person. You will probably never see them sold in any form but whole.
Even though their name has “game” in the middle of it, they don’t actually send in Panzer divisions to flush these little birdies out of the forest; they are farm-raised. They are more common in North America than in the UK, though they are now (2004) starting to appear in UK supermarkets and recipes.
The ratio of meat to bone is so piddly that, once you’re past the novelty of having one on your plate, you’ll struggle to get a decent meal off the poor widdle thing. Because it’s so small and all the bones are so close together, without picking it up with your hands (which poses a quandary at a fancy restaurant) it’s hard to get off them what meat there is.
Generally you just cook them whole. They cook very quickly. Good for roasting or grilling/barbequing. You can cook whole or cut in half. Consider cutting them in half if you are barbequing them to allow for more even cooking.
To roast whole, allow for 1 to 1 ½ hours at 375 F (190 C); allow an additional 15 minutes if they are stuffed.
Chicken breast; Poussin; small Guinea fowl; other poultry or a game bird.
As for chicken.
Cornish Hens are a cross between Cornish Hens and White Rock Hens.
Some sources credit the breeding of Cornish Game Hens to Donald John Tyson of Tyson Foods in the US, a large chicken producer, in 1965. Blizter, Carol Anne. Rock Cornish game hens a favorite for holiday dining. Anderson, Indiana: Anderson Herald Bulletin / Associated Press. 10 December 2005. Page C3, col. 4.
However, Clementine Paddleford, writing for Gourmet magazine much earlier, in 1951, not only credits it to a Jacques Makowsky, but provides evidence that they were on the market well before 1965:
“The new Rock Cornish game hen is an Eastern production. The broad breasts are plumply rounded, the meat finely grained, the flavor combining the sweetness and gaminess of the grouse with the while meat of the finest milk-fed poussin. Jacques Makowsky of Pomfret Center, Connecticut, is owner of Idlewild Farm and producer of this butter-ball creation. The diet for these ‘fancy feathers’ starts with a game-bird feed to which is added ground acorns and berries to give the sweet flavor. Fish is never included in the mix. The birds, selling in sizes of 1 to 1 ¼ pounds, are notable for small bones and broad breasts and a slight gaminess to the taste. Some twenty restaurants from Boston to New Orleans feature the new breed.” — Paddleford, Clementine (1898 – 1967). Food Flashes Column. Gourmet Magazine. June 1951.
A 1956 cooking column from Des Moines, Iowa, gives more background info:
“Cornish game hens look like miniature plump turkeys and they are just plain cute. It’s a retired designer of perfume packages, Jacques Makowsky, who claims to be the ‘father’ of the game hen.
In 1949, he crossed the fighting Cornish game hen with the domesticated Plymouth Rock and came up with this cute little bird that’s designed for single serving. Makowsky registered the name Rock Cornish game hen. But a lot of poultrymen in the east and some in the midwest raise them under such names as Cornish game hens and rock game hens. The Danish comedian, Victor Borge, raises them for sale at his country place near New York City.
These little hens are becoming increasingly popular as more people learn how good they are. On Makowsky’s farm alone, 6,000 hens are dressed and shipped daily. In 1950 his entire output was 23,500 birds.” — Cute Well Describes Cornish Game Hens. Des Moines, Iowa: Des Moines Tribune. Thursday, 1 March 1956. Page 28, col. 2.
The same column gave the 1956 cost of them as being around $1.30 each at the grocery store.
A 2005 newspaper column says that Makowky’s wife, Alphonsine “Therese”, was actually the one with the idea:
“We’ve all at one time or another had Rock Cornish game hen for dinner. It has seemed so common now as to be prosaic. But the Rock Cornish game hen was invented in the U.S. in the 1950s and was a delicacy first available only at such upscale New York restaurants as the 21 Club.
It is a tale of an ordinary person who came to live an extraordinary life. When Alphonsine “Therese” Makowsky died in Danville on Oct. 30th at the age of 92 she left an astounding legacy. As detailed in a Dec. 1 obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle, it began at the age of 15 when she left home for Paris and worked in a milliner’s shop and a cheese shop. There Alphonsine Davalis met Jacques Makowsky, a refugee from the Russian Revolution and former printer to Tsar Nicholas II. After they married in 1933, she and her Jewish husband fled to New York after the Nazi invasion of Paris in 1940, Her husband was ahead of her and the three children and she was stuck in Marseilles until Gen. Francisco Franco granted the printer a personal favor by allowing the family to cross Spain into Portugal, where they shipped out to New York.
In Manhattan Jacques Makowsky made a good living printing specialty boxes for high priced perfumes and powders. In 1946 he retired and they moved to a farm of 200 acres in northeastern Connecticut, where the couple began raising African guinea hens. A chicken house fire in 1949 wiped out their crop. After that Mrs. Makowsky, who was raised on a farm in France, came up with the idea of breeding the Cornish game cock with other chickens such as the White Plymouth Rock and the Malayan fighting cock. The result, according to a 1955 Saturday Evening Post article that attributed the invention to Mrs. Makowsky, was the Rock Cornish game hen, an all-white meat bird just right for a single serving. In the mid-1950s the Makowskys were taking orders for 3,000 Rock Cornish game hens a day.
Mrs. Makowsky also developed recipes for the birds, including some of the first recipes for frozen foods such as Chicken Kiev and Chicken Cordon Bleu.
The Makowskys sold the business in 1967 and, Jacques Makowsky died in 1981. Mrs. Makowsky moved to Danville in 1983, where she volunteered in a charity’s second-hand store.” — Editorial: In praise of the Rock Cornish game hen. Placerville, California: Placerville Mountain Democrat. 12 December 2005. Page A4, col. 1.
Doyle, Jim. Therese Makowsky — original breeder of the Rock Cornish game hen. San Francisco, California: San Francisco Chronicle. 1 December 2005.
|↑1||Blizter, Carol Anne. Rock Cornish game hens a favorite for holiday dining. Anderson, Indiana: Anderson Herald Bulletin / Associated Press. 10 December 2005. Page C3, col. 4.|