Buttermilk-Brined Cornish Game Hens with a Rustic Kale Gratin

Another Valentine’s Day meal that I’m forcing upon you!

Buttermilk-Brined Cornish Game Hens with a Rustic Kale Gratin / Bev Cooks

Also, these hens are upside down. I’m just getting this out of the way right here, right now. I roasted them upside down. You may now kick me out of the blogosphere and life.

Buttermilk-Brined Cornish Game Hens with a Rustic Kale Gratin / Bev Cooks

The embarrassing thing is, this almost happened at Thanksgiving, too! Carolyn and I were placing them on the rack, post brining and we were like, “Wait. Breast side up. Why do these look weird. They look the same. I think. But they’re not the same. Wait, this is it! Wait, is it? Get me a drink and call my therapist.”

And I did it again. But this time, never even realized they were upside down.

That is, until Aaron cut into his and said, “Whoa okay. The breast meat is on the bottom.” AND MY BODY WENT COLD.

(by the way, you’ll salt the dickens out of them. inside and out.)

Buttermilk-Brined Cornish Game Hens with a Rustic Kale Gratin / Bev Cooks

Couldn’t believe it. You’ve got to be freaking kidding me. I roasted these dad gum mother babies up.side.down.

(and then throw them in a huge plastic bag with enough buttermilk to cover them. let it sit in the fridge overnight! next day just take them out and place them on a roasting pan with little rack. then sprinkle them again with salt, and stuff garlic and lemon up their you know whats.)

Buttermilk-Brined Cornish Game Hens with a Rustic Kale Gratin / Bev Cooks

So now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get through the rest of this meal, because it truly is FANTASTIC, and I need you to need it and I want you to want it.

That should be a song.

Buttermilk-Brined Cornish Game Hens with a Rustic Kale Gratin / Bev Cooks

So these hennies go back on a rack, and you’ll re-salt, inside and out.

Like, I can barely look at this. Upside down.

Buttermilk-Brined Cornish Game Hens with a Rustic Kale Gratin / Bev Cooks

Look at what that buttermilk does, though! No BUTTER, no OIL, no NUTTIN’.

Can you how imagine just how stunning the breasts would have been? Dying.

Buttermilk-Brined Cornish Game Hens with a Rustic Kale Gratin / Bev Cooks

Moving past it.

Okay, so this is what 20 oz of chopped and sautéed lacinato kale looks like. With garlic. Two 10 oz bag from TJ’s! If you want, you can absolutely chop up two bunches of kale, and remove the thick stems at the bottom. I used the bags because life.

Buttermilk-Brined Cornish Game Hens with a Rustic Kale Gratin / Bev Cooks

Transfer the kale to a gratin (or any baking dish!) and drizzle heavy cream with nutmeg over it. Took a cup and a half to make my heart lose its mind.

Buttermilk-Brined Cornish Game Hens with a Rustic Kale Gratin / Bev Cooks

Then sprinkle it with grated gruyere (or honestly, a white cheddar would do!) and parmesan cheese on top. While the hens REST, you can stick this gal in the oven for about 25 and get her super succulent.

Buttermilk-Brined Cornish Game Hens with a Rustic Kale Gratin / Bev Cooks

I MEAN THEY ARE PRETTY. Even upside down.

And the flavor? Lemony! Rich! TENDER and moi- um, you know.

And that buttermilk skin is going to have you punching yourself in the face.

Buttermilk-Brined Cornish Game Hens with a Rustic Kale Gratin / Bev Cooks

And the gratin! It’s just unreal. Garlicky, creamy, so rich and indulgent. And let me say, if you don’t make this for V-day – EASTER would be perfect. Dude, even Thanksgiving. It is so beyond, you simply have to make it for SOMETHING soon. Sunday night dinner. A nice dinner party where you need to bring a fancy side. THIS.

THIS THIS THIS.

Did I mention it’s painfully delicious?

And the bread, it’s Bittman’s no-knead bread I make constantly. If you want to add cheese to it (which you do), I have this fab version!

Buttermilk-Brined Cornish Game Hens with a Rustic Kale Gratin / Bev Cooks

Well, you just gotta.

Buttermilk-Brined Cornish Game Hens with a Rustic Kale Gratin
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Ingredients

  • 2 - 4 (1 pound) Cornish game hens, rinsed inside and out, and pat dry
  • 4 cups buttermilk
  • a few Tbs. coarse salt
  • 2 lemons, cut into quarters
  • About 6 garlic cloves, divided
  • 2 (10 oz) bags chopped lacinato kale
  • 1 and 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • About two cups grated gruyere cheese (cheddar works, too)
  • 1/4th cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • Crusty bread to serve

Instructions

  1. Evenly and heavily salt each cornish game hen, inside and out, and place them in a large plastic bag. Pour the buttermilk into the bag until it covers the hens. Seal the bag and marinate in the fridge overnight.
  2. Next day, remove the hens from the bag and pour off the marinade. Let them sit on the counter for about an hour, letting them come back to room temperature. No need to pat dry! Place them on a rack that’s placed on a baking (or roasting) sheet. Place a garlic clove and a lemon wedge inside each hen, and evenly salt the outsides again on both sides. Tie the little legs with twine, and roast the hens breast side up (still in disbelief) for 50 minutes to an hour, until the chicken reaches 165 in the leg. Look how gorgeous they are! If you need to move the pan around mid-roast, do it for even browning.
  3. While the hens roast, make the gratin! Mince 3-4 garlic cloves, and stir the nutmeg into the cream. Heat a Tbs. of oil in a large sauté pan, and in batches, sauté the kale until all 20 oz are wilted. Season with a pinch of salt. Transfer the kale to a gratin (or baking) dish, and pour the heavy cream over the kale. Sprinkle the gruyere and parmesan over the top.
  4. Once the hens are out, covered and resting, slide the gratin into the oven (still at 425!) and bake about 25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the parmesan is browning.
  5. Serve the hens with the kale gratin and the crusty bread!
  6. And wine. Duh.
  7. Serves anywhere from 2-4. (Depending on how many hens you roast. You know, math.)
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http://bevcooks.com/2019/01/buttermilk-brined-cornish-game-hens-with-a-rustic-kale-gratin/

Buttermilk-Brined Cornish Game Hens with a Rustic Kale Gratin / Bev Cooks

UPSIDE DOWN. I am just completely dying.


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13 Responses to Buttermilk-Brined Cornish Game Hens with a Rustic Kale Gratin

  1. Sarah January 31, 2019 at 8:32 am #
    Every time I try to use buttermilk I chicken out because it ALWAYS looks spoiled and curdled to me. Even if I have bought it that same day and it is "in date." I always feel like it smells bad and then I never use. Can you alleviate my fears/tell me what exactly it should smell and look like and how to know if it's actually OK???? And maybe can you call my therapist, too, while I call yours?? ;-)
    • Bev Weidner January 31, 2019 at 9:11 am #
      Ohhhhh! So buttermilk has a jank smell, but it shouldn't be CURDLED. It's smooth and thick, like whole milk. I just smells like death and regret. But what it does to food? Magic. Trust it! Trust me. :)
      • Sarah January 31, 2019 at 10:07 am #
        UGH ok so the milk I was using probably WAS bad if it was chunky. So weird!!! Thanks!!
    • Anonymous January 31, 2019 at 2:55 pm #
      If it tells you anything a out the finished state you can make your own buttermilk by adding vinegar to milk :)
  2. Dee January 31, 2019 at 10:15 am #
    Now I get you didn't mean to roast them upside down; I always have to check my turkey too, to make sure it's breast side up and it's not that obvious!! But anyway, some people roast upside down in order to keep the breast more moist. So just go with it! Bet it was delicious!
    • Bev Weidner January 31, 2019 at 12:10 pm #
      No idea it was a thing! I'm going for it. Thank you. :)
  3. Julie January 31, 2019 at 10:21 am #
    I have read lots of recipes/theories on roasting chicken and turkey upside down to keep the breast meet from drying out so.......good idea? This looks outstanding!
    • Bev Weidner January 31, 2019 at 12:09 pm #
      Well, I had no idea! Thanks for making me feel better about my life. :)
  4. Bryan Trainor January 31, 2019 at 2:56 pm #
    Ok Bev. This looks amazing. But you get major props for your bread. You could be a boulangiere in Paris for the presentation alone. Trying your kale this weekend. 😀
  5. Susan January 31, 2019 at 4:56 pm #
    I would never drink buttermilk but you are absolutely right about what it does for food. I keep some around almost all the time for biscuits (SO much better than recipes that use regular milk), homemade ranch dressing, muffins, cakes (yes, I'm a bakeaholic) and I love it to marinate chicken in it. I'm going to try once again to find Cornish hens in my local stores so I can try your idea on Cornish hens. It's not like I live in a remote or small town, it's the dang capital of the state but all of a sudden no stores carry them anymore. And when I ask about them, most of the employees look at me with a WTH look, like they've never heard of the tiny little chicken things.
  6. Nancy February 1, 2019 at 2:55 pm #
    Don't feel bad. I did the same thing a couple of Christmases ago; roasted the dang hens upside down and we were too stupid to flip them over. We just thought they had no meat on them!! So I apologized to everyone and said I would never cook them again. Duh....... I'm not a big kale fan but I just might try this version. It actually looks good :)
  7. Joelle February 4, 2019 at 9:48 am #
    If you hadn't said anything I wouldn't have noticed!! I roasted a chicken upside down one time and the meat was so juicy and tender! Definitely not a bad thing!! This looks amazing and buttermilk woohoo!!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Buttermilk Shrimp Tacos | Bev Cooks - July 17, 2019 […] we’re doing with the shrimp. We’re marinating in buttermilk. Buttermilk! Remember my Buttermilk Cornish Game Hens from back in January? It’s like that, but with shrimp. And flash fried. Glory frickin’ […]

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