I've never had a cornish hen. I don't know why. It's just not something that's ever crossed my path prior to this week's French Friday's with Dorie selection. Olive-Olive Cornish Hens (pg 225 of Around My French Table) is a cute name for a wee chicken that has olive tapenade rubbed under the skin, and then olive oil rubbed into the skin. Easy, right?
Except for the part where you rip out the little birdy's spine and then crush it's breastbone so it lays flat. On principle, I don't really have a problem with this. The huli-huli chicken I cooked from Hawai'i Cuisine a month back prepared me for the spinal dismemberment. My problem was that the hens I bought were partially frozen, which I didn't realize at the time. Two days in the fridge was apparently not enough to thaw them out. I took them out to bring them to room temperature, and heard them clunk against the counter. Woops. It was a little difficult to cut through the spine while the entire cavity was full of frozen "juice." Bloody chunks of ice wound up all over my counter. Gross. Me. Out. I will say that it was much easier to cut through the ribs with kitchen shears than it was to saw through them with a not-so-sharp knife, like I did a month ago, so I'll thank Dorie for that tip. I put so much weight behind my breaking of poor birdy's breastbone that I smashed my head on the cabinet. Twice. I'm a slow learner.
Because the tapenade at my supermarket is awful, I made Dorie's recipe from page 487. Straight off the spoon, this is the best tapenade I've ever had. It was light and lemony and herbal, and I want to bake a bread tomorrow so I have something to smear it on.
Cooked on the hens, the tapenade lost most of its flavor.
My hen cooked perfectly in thirty minutes. Matt's was bloody. They were beside each other in a pan. I don't understand how their experiences in-oven could have yielded such different results.
Conclusion: Love the tapenade, alone. As for the hens, they were just okay. The tapenade didn't hold up to cooking.