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Cornish Hen Meets Frisée aux Lardons

This image courtesy of Daniel Krieger

Not many cooks can claim Alton Brown as their mentor. As a matter of fact, I think I'm the only one, and that feels pretty darn good to type. Alton has an encyclopedic knowledge of food and cooking. He can call an Iron Chef battle as though it were football. He's creative--he's made multitiered wing steamers, dehydrators from box fans, and condiment caddies from egg cartons. Here, his favorite weeknight protein, the Cornish hen, is amalgamated with one of my favorite salads, frisée aux lardons, to make a skillet-dish for two, which I would be proud to share with him and I believe Alton might like to eat. The Cornish hen serves as a vessel for the cured salty bacon and its fat, with its richness cut by fruity apple cider vinegar and the crunch of frisée.

Notes

Boning vs. fillet knives: A :A boning knife is a knife that is skinnier than your average kitchen knife, designed to get into the crevices between flesh and bones. The best boning knives also have a thicker side at the hilt, used for cutting through bones. I have a boning knife for chickens and anything larger. For smaller creatures, I use a fillet knife, which is thinner than a boning knife, and is generally flexible to some extent.

Preparation Time10 min

Preparation Time - Text10 minutes

Cooking Time25 min

Cooking Time - Text25

Cooking Methodroasting, sauteeing

CostModerate

Total Timeunder 1 hour

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

One Pot MealYes

OccasionCooking for a date, Formal Dinner Party

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, lactose-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free

Five Ingredients or LessYes

Mealdinner

Taste and Texturesalty, savory, tangy

Ingredients

  • Cast-iron skillet
  • Slotted spoon
  • Boning or chef's knife (see Notes)
  • Mixing bowl
  • Whisk
  • Trivet
  • 4 ounces slab bacon, cubed
  • 1 1?2- to 2-pound large Cornish hen
  • Kosher salt
  • Cracked black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 heads frisée, woody ends trimmed, split

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 500°F.

  2. Place the bacon in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Rotate the bacon to crisp evenly on all sides and render out lots of fat, turning it about every 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain. Take the skillet off the heat, but do not clean it.

  3. Meanwhile, spatchcock the Cornish hen with a boning or chef's knife, removing the wing tips, spine, ribs, and breastbone of the bird while leaving the leg, thigh, and wing bones attached. (You can also ask your butcher to do this for you.)

  4. Liberally season both sides of the bird with salt and cracked pepper.

  5. Heat the skillet over medium-high heat. Place the spatchcocked bird, skin side down, in the rendered bacon fat in the skillet and cook until the skin is browned, 4 to 5 minutes.

  6. Flip the hen in the cast-iron skillet, transfer to the oven, and roast, uncovered, until a thermometer in the thigh reads 155°F, 10 to 12 minutes. (Bear in mind that the folks at the USDA think 165°F is best.)

  7. While the bird is cooking, measure out the vinegar and 1?2 teaspoon salt into a mixing bowl.

  8. Remove the bird from the skillet and set aside to rest. Slowly whisk the bacon fat remaining in the skillet into the apple cider vinegar to make a vinaigrette.

  9. Place the frisée in the pan with the bacon, top with the bird, and drizzle with the vinaigrette.

  10. PLATE IT! Serve this right in the cast-iron skillet, on a trivet, and enjoy with Alton Brown (optional).

  11. BREAK IT: Try using an alternative vinegar for a fruitier flavor profile. Lychee vinegar would be crazy!

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