Monday, September 19, 2022

50% Casualties Is Perfectly Acceptable For A Dinner Party

 ... at least that's what I told myself on Saturday as I thawed 8 Cornish game hens.

The problem with the hens is always this: They come from the store as little elliptical solids of ice. I typically buy them the day of the party because I use them so rarely. They're an inspirationally-driven dish and it's only when I get that spark of madness that I decided to make them. As such, I've got to get them thawed by 4 PM or so to begin their preparation.

This being the Catican Compound, nothing is ever as straightforward as going to the store in the morning, buying the hens and having a full day to thaw them. Instead, the best I can manage as I try to do too much, is to get them home by about 1 PM or so. On Saturday, it was 2 PM.

So there I was with eight hens - wife kitteh having invited three couples - and two hours to thaw the tiny brutes. I went with my tried and true method of putting them in warm brine. 1/3 cup of salt and 1/3 cup of brown sugar per gallon of water at tap-temperature will do the trick for a couple of frozen pork chops or chicken leg quarters. 8 hens were a different matter. The sheer mass of ice meant you couldn't do it at room temperature.

That's a lot of ice.

I made two gallons of brine, put it in a huge stock pot and dumped in the birds. I put it on the stove and heated it up to skin-warm temperature. My guess was 85-90 degrees. And there they sat, poultry in a warm bath, the perfect breeding ground for gut-wrenching bacteria.

You know it's going to be a good party when you're making guest survival odds estimates in your head.

And yet, they came out perfectly. They were thawed all the way through and I was able to stuff them without pulling out any lingering ice. I wondered if the salt water had something to do with it.

Afterwards, they browned properly on the stove and cooked quite nicely in the oven. No one got sick and the taste was just what I'd hoped for Cornish Game Hens with Crawfish Cornbread Stuffing.

I never doubted it for a minute. Two hours of doubt, maybe, but never a minute.

Stuffed hens, extra stuffing, gravy and beer. Life is good.

1 comment:

tim eisele said...

Sometimes I think the best way to thaw a frozen bird might be to drive aluminum baking nails into all the thick parts, to conduct heat in more efficiently.

Or, emulate the thing one of my old college classmates called a "Watt Dogger": stab a couple of forks in it, attach the leads from a power cord to the forks, and plug it in. When it starts to smoke, it's thawed.

Or, maybe stick them on a boot dryer!