Preparing cornish hens

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Begin by trimming the wings with a sharp knife or poultry shears, cutting the wings at the second joint. Add the trimmings to the roasting pan or save them for stock. Next, prop up the bird so it's vertical, with its back toward you. With a sharp knife, cut through the skin and flesh along the entire length of one side of the spine.

Flip the bird around and repeat on the other side of the spine.

Remove the backbone. This can also be added to the roasting pan or saved for stock. Use the tip of the knife to remove the little wishbone at the neck end and spread open the bird with the inside facing you. Find the whitish triangle of cartilage at the tip of the breastbone and nick it with the knife. Now pick up the bird and bend it backward along the breastbone to crack it. Slide the tip of the knife or your finger under each side of the breastbone to loosen it, and then yank it out. Leave the ribs in place.

Stuffing: To prepare for an under-the-skin stuffing, begin at the top of the breast and gently lift and pull the skin away from the flesh of the bird. Be very careful and very patient; game hen skin is delicate. Once you've separated the skin from the meat, use your fingers to gently force the stuffing between the meat and skin, pushing it back and around the breast and even down the thighs and legs, as you go. Try to keep the layer of stuffing s even as possible for a better shape and even cooking. Don't force too much under the skin (or fill the cavity with too much if you're using that method) since stuffing expands as it cooks.

Fine Cooking April-May 1995

Submitted By DIANE LAZARUS On 06-15-95

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