Sunday, August 31, 2014

Day 4 - Crockpot Cornish Game Hen

Pinterest Day 4 - Crockpot Cornish Game Hen

The Pinterest recipe I looked at today is Paleo Cornish Game Hen by Kelly Greco

Cauliflower, carrots, and game hen. Why yes, I am neither a chef nor a photographer. 

The Reasons:
This is another 'freezer died' recipe.  I had a cornish game hen in my freezer when it lost power, so I had to find some way to make this. This seemed like a a method for cooking game hen that required very little of my time and effort. 

The Ingredients:
What I can use:
Cornish game hen
carrots (not baby carrots, but regular ones)

What I can't use:
yellow onions
poultry seasoning
garlic powder
ground black pepper
ground sage (I often have dried sage from the garden, but I'm out at the moment)

The Challenges:
1. I've got the main ingredient plus one, but none of the seasonings, so I had to decide what the heck I was going to do for flavoring. I really like the crockpot idea - I don't do a lot of crockpot cooking, so I still need ideas in this area.

2. I'm out of a lot of my regular seasonings in general this year - the garden didn't do great, and I was a bit too ill some of the time to shore it up. So I was kind of stymied for a few minutes trying to figure out what to flavor things with.

What I did:
I decided to go with an Asian flavor combination, based on what I had. 

So in the bottom of the crockpot, I put 3 med. carrots, peeled and chopped into large pieces and head of cauliflower, cut into large florets.  I tossed in 3 sliced, unpeeled pieces of ginger, and added a little water as the cauliflower was a bit older and drier. 

Then I mixed up salt, crushed onion seed, 2 chiltepines, some wild tarragon (has a musty taste, a bit like mugwort), marjoram, and fresh grated ginger, turmeric, and two very small stalks of lemon grass (probably about 3/4 of a regular one), diced. I mashed them up in a mortar and pestle, and then rubbed this over the cornish game hen. Rubbed a little salt on the inside of the cornish game hen.

Cornish game hen with herb rub

The I put it on top of the veggies, and then washed the leaves from the lemon grass and laid it on top of the game hen, pouring 1-2 tablespoons of homemade lemon juice concentrate on it before turning it on low and leaving it for 6 hours.

Lemon grass over all

Why did I make these choices:
The veggies - Aside from the cauliflower, I didn't really have much that I thought would go well with this that didn't have a flavor I was unsure about.  On top of that, we've made cauliflower rice with ginger and turmeric that's been quite tasty, and I thought that the peppery flavor of it might help add flavor, with the lack of onion and garlic. 

Spices - once I had the cauliflower and carrots, I started thinking of Asian flavors, and picked things I thought would go with that, or at least not clash. 

The lemon grass leaves and lemon juice concentrate - I've made tea from these leaves and the scent is very nice when they are heated up. I'm hoping that this might help with the cornish game hen, too, but I didn't know how much different it will make to the flavor. I hope the lemon concentrate can help with that, but I was thinking it would likely end up with the veggies rather than the meat.

The result:
Food Fail!
Wow - not good. Bad would be closer. In my son's words, the cornish game hen tasted like a really dry mini-Thanksgiving turkey. My daughter thought it had a hint of a flavor that kind of reminded her of Asian cuisine. I'd agree on the hint of a flavor - whatever I added, it didn't add enough flavor by far. 

It was a little dry, but not horribly - I had the breast side down, so that retained a little more flavor. But it would definitely need more liquid. It could also be that this is a pretty craptastic crock pot and it wouldn't cook on low, so I had to put it on high at the end to get it to finish cooking. But a hint of flavor is all it had.

The carrots, bizarrely, picked up so much lemon taste that they had no sweet taste left and were mostly sour with nothing else. Really soft texture, kind of interesting, but the taste was peculiar. I don't know if they might not have had a lot of flavor to begin with; I didn't taste them. A mistake I will remember to rectify, so when I next mess about with recipes I will know more what's going on.

The cauliflower, according to my daughter...
"Initial taste is terrible, the one after that isn’t bad, but then the after taste is terrible again. But a different kind of terrible so you’ve got variety going for you, at least."

I didn't mind it, honestly - it soaked up more of the juices from the meat, and barely any of the herbs or lemon.  I would eat it voluntarily, but I wouldn't go out of my way to make it again.

How would I change this:
I'd increase the amount of herbs by 2 to 3 times as much. I don't know what I could do about the moisture, not with my crockpot. I think I'd possibly cook the game hen WITHOUT veggies for the initial few hours, with extra liquid, and then maybe pour it out (or only have enough so that it's used up) near the last hour, lift up the hen and add the veggies underneath at that point.

The lemon - I'd leave it out entirely, although the lemon grass scent came through a bit and was quite nice.

Would I make it again:

I reacted to the cauliflower, and then to the game hen (a Mary's organic game hen) as well. That part was frustrating, sigh.

My kids weren't impressed with the entire thing either.

So this is really not worth exploring further, in my opinion.  The original recipe might be worth it for this with a good crock pot, but not for me, at the moment.

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