"Cornish hens cooked to tender perfection, all thanks to an extremely flavorful buttermilk brine. It's the perfect dinner for two!"
I’ve talked a little before about the food power struggle we have in our house, and nine months later the battle still rages on.
Because you see, I live in a world full of flavors, seasons, and marinades (hence this little food blog) while The Husband… well, doesn’t.
If he had his way, he’d have grilled fish all by itself without a spec of breading or even a dab of tartar. He’d have steak without a drop of sauce or just a hint of seasoning, though most of the time he’s perfectly fine without the herbs. He tells me that he just likes the taste of the meat and doesn’t need to add anything to it to make it better.
This is usually the point where I banish him from my kitchen for even daring to utter such blasphemy.
But then, that doesn’t really solve anything because we’re both still left hungry (and me apparently a little hangry).
So I do my best to find compromises between his tastes and mine. I’ll still season our dishes, but lightly. I’ll marinate, but nothing overpowering. Over the years I’ve learned how to keep a delicate balance on the flavor spectrum, and I’m always stoked when I stumble across a new recipe that sits somewhere within the neutral territory of our food power struggle… like, say, these buttermilk brined cornish hens.
Call me a culinary noob (you wouldn’t be wrong!) but I had no idea you could brine meats in buttermilk.
Turns out this is very much a thing, and you know what?
This thing totally works.
The buttermilk brine has an amazing mix of flavors (like garlic, cayenne, and cumin) but the end result is a very subtle hint of flavor in the hens. Plus, once these little birdies are cooked the meat was some of the most tender and moist chicken I’ve ever had.
Like, seriously – it blew my mind just how well this chicken turned out.
The only tip I have for this recipe is that you should use real-deal buttermilk, purchased from the store. The first time I made this I tried using “homemade” buttermilk, where you add a 1 tablespoon of lemon juice (or vinegar) per cup of whole milk and let it sit to curdle, but the end result was no where near as good as using the store-bought buttermilk. The true buttermilk was far more creamy, making an ideal base for holding all the spices, and did a far better job of prepping the meat for cooking.
Another great perk about this recipe?
It’s the ideal dinner for two.
I can totally see myself making this again come Valentine’s Day, because what’s more romantic than calling for a cease-fire in the kitchen? I certainly can’t think of anything.
Buttermilk Brined Cornish Hens
- 2 Cornish hens any weight
- 3 cups buttermilk
- 2 tsp salt plus more for seasoning
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or more to taste
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 2 tbsp lime juice
- 1 lemon cut into fourths
- 2 tbsp butter melted
- 1 pinch pepper to taste
- 12 oz baby potatoes optional
Rinse Cornish hens and gently pat with a paper towel.
Fill a large pot or bowl with buttermilk, salt, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, cumin, and lime juice. Whisk together.
Place Cornish hens in the milk mixture, using a spoon to coat the tops. Let Cornish hens brine for at least 3 hours and up to 8 hours, flipping the hens over half way through.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Remove Cornish hens from buttermilk and pat excess off with a paper towel. Discard buttermilk mixture.
Place Cornish hens in a shallow baking dish. Place lemon wedges inside hens, 2 wedges in each hen. Use cooking twine to tie up the legs. If cooking with potatoes, arrange around Cornish hens without covering the hens too much. Brush melted butter on hens and potatoes. Finish up by seasoning hens with salt and pepper to taste.
Bake Cornish hens in the oven for 50-60 minutes, until top is golden brown and potatoes are soft.