Due to her mom having the flu over the weekend we couldn’t cook the Sunday dinner we had planned until Monday. Luckily, it was a meal that Alessandra would enjoy eating too even if she couldn’t help in the kitchen as much as usual. We cooked Cornish game hens with mashed potatoes and gravy. Very simple, quick to make, and very comforting to the soul and the stomach.
I prepared the game hens by cutting out the backbone of the hen so you lay it flat on a cooking pan. This allows the hen to cook more evenly and you can completely brown the entire skin. After cutting and placing two hens on the glass cooking dish, Alessandra then seasoned the hens with salt and pepper. A heavy hand by a child is surprisingly the proper amount of seasoning. Be a little aggressive because you will be basting the hens two or three times during the cooking time and that seasoning will eventually end up in the gravy. In a pre-heated 450 deg oven on bake, place the hens in the oven. After 15 minutes, baste the hens and turn the oven down to 250 degrees. If the pan doesn’t have any juice put some chicken stock in the cooking dish to give you enough liquid to baste. You will use this liquid to make your gravy. After another 20 minutes, put the oven on broil to brown the skin and turn off the oven. Cook the hens until the juices run clear after inserting a metal skewer or fork into the thickest part of the hen. Remove the hens and let them rest on a carving board covered loosely with tin foil. Save the juices from the pan.
While the hens are cooking you can make mashed potatoes. For two or three people you can cut up 4 lbs of potatoes into 2″ cubes and boil for 20 minutes until soft, and then drain out the water. Let your child mash-up the potatoes and put some milk, cream, or butter into them to make it smooth. Healthier version would use milk, but we use organic heavy cream to finish the potatoes.
For the gravy, I fried the backbones in a pot and once very brown I put the chicken stock (store-bought is fine) and let it reduce. You will make the mashed potatoes and start the gravy while cooking the hens. Strain the stock and bones into a small pot, add the juices from the baking dish, and then place a small amount of corn starch or flour and put back on the burner until fully cooked through and smooth. Taste for seasoning to make sure it tastes good. Remember, it already has some seasoning from the hens so you only have to adjust the salt and pepper amounts.
You have just made a mini-Thanksgiving dinner that is extremely affordable, and done in less than 1 hour. Some mashed potatoes with gravy and plated along the Cornish game hen.
Alessandra had wanted pasta and vegetables tonight, but she ended up eating the entire breast of the hen too. Mommy got fed, Alessandra got fed, and I will have to find something else!! The best part about this dish is the low-cost and using every piece of the hen for cooking. Having Alessandra like it so much is the icing on top of the cake.
Child friendly activities for this recipe
Adding salt and pepper to the Cornish game hens before placing them into the oven (3 years or older)
Mashing the potatoes in a bowl with a potato masher. Just make sure potatoes are cool enough to the touch and the table surface is very stable. (5 years or older)
Whisking the flour or corn starch into stock.(7 years or older)