Crispy Roasted Cornish Hen (脆皮童子鸡)
2 hours 5 minutes
This recipe is actually a simplified version of the Cantonese roasted pigeons. I wasn’t able to buy pigeons around where I live, but luckily, the Cornish hen is perfect because the size is similar. In fact, this is a single-serving size bird, maybe two if you have a small appetite. That makes it easy to times the number of people you gonna serve and decide how many cornish hens you want to cook.
- 1 cornish hen, about 1.6 lb
- 2 pieces of fermented bean curd
- 1 tbsp of the bean curd juice
- 1 tbsp of soy sauce
- 1 tbsp of oyster sauce
- 1/2 tbsp of hoisin sauce
- 1/2 tsp of five spice powder
- 1/2 tsp of white pepper
- 2 shallots, sliced thinly
- 1/2 inch of ginger, smashed and diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, smashed and diced
- 2 scallions, cut into stalks
- 1/2 tbsp of sugar
- 1/2 tbsp of honey
- 1/4 cup of white vinegar
- 1/4 cup of water
1 tbsp of oil
- The leftover marinade
- 1/4 cup of water
To Marinade the Cornish Hen
To Glaze the Cornish Hen
To Make the Gravy Sauce
Marinate the Cornish Hen
Combine the fermented bean curd, the bean curd juice, soy sauce, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, five spice powder, ground white pepper, shallot slices, minced garlic, and ginger in a big mixing bowl.
- Use paper towels to dry the cornish hen skin and the cavity. Put it in the marinade and rub it for a few minutes. The ingredient amount I gave is for one Cornish hen. If you make more than one, you have to adjust the seasoning proportionally.
- Once done, cover it and let it sit in the fridge overnight. If you are in a rush, 2 hours will do a fine job because this is such a small bird.
Glaze the Cornish Hen
For those unfamiliar with Cantonese cuisine, We always glaze the poultry before roasting, which is the key to creating that perfectly charred golden brown skin.
- In a saucepan, add 1/2 tbsp of sugar, 1/2 tbsp of honey, 1/4 cup of white vinegar, and 1/4 cup of water. Stir everything over medium heat until dissolved, and set the glaze aside. Traditionally, we use maltose, but honey is probably already in your pantry, so we are sticking with honey today.
- Remove the aromatics from the Cornish hen. There will be some extra marinade left in the bowl. Don’t throw it; we will use that later.
- Bring the Cornish hen to the sink with a rack under it. Boil some water using an electric kettle and pour it all over the chicken. The heat will stretch the skin and make it nice and smooth. Don’t worry about washing off the flavor because it has been marinaded long enough, and we reserved the leftover marinade, which is going to be a flavorful gravy.
- Put the cornish hen into a big clean bowl, pour the glaze onto the chicken, and rub it all over the skin. The sweetener in the glaze will caramelize while roasting, and that is how the skin gets beautiful. This glaze is reusable; if you cook more than one hen, you don’t have to make another batch of glaze.
- Tie the chicken leg with kitchen twine and wrap the wing tip with tin foil so it doesn’t burn.
Roast the Cornish Hen in an Air Fryer
Place the Cornish hen in the Air fryer basket. Set the temperature to 300F without preheating and let it cook for 35 minutes. It may look like a short time but trust me, it is enough to cook the chicken through because air fryer heat circulation is efficient.
- Thirty-five minutes later, check the inner temperature of the cornish hen; it should be above 180F.
- Switch the temperature to 400 F and continue to roast for another 3-6 minutes or until beautifully charred. Every air fryer is different; please keep an eye on it, and feel free to pull out the basket to check the doneness.
Roast the Cornish Hen in the Oven
The downside of the air fryer is that you can only cook one chicken at a time because the basket is small. If you cook more than one, you will have to use an oven.
- Preheat the oven to 350F. The heat circulation is not as good as an air fryer so the temperature has to be higher.
- Optionally, quickly dry the chicken skin with a small fan while waiting for the oven to preheat. If you don’t have it, just put it under a ceiling fan for 10-20 minutes and it will do the same job. This is totally optional but it does help to make the skin more crispy.
- Bake one Cornish hen for 35 minutes. If you cook more than one, add 10 more minutes for every extra Cornish hen.
- Switch to broiler and broil it for 3-5 more minutes or until beautifully charred.
Make the Gravy Sauce and Serve
During the roasting, you can work on gravy. Add 1 tbsp of oil to a saucepan. Put the aromatic from the leftover marinade into the saucepan, but leave the liquid behind.
- Saute the aromatics over medium-low heat for a few minutes or until everything is caramelized.
- Add the remaining sauce and stir well. Pour in 1/4 cup of water and simmer it for a minute or 2. Let the sauce go through a sieve. You can drizzle this onto the rice and the chicken.
- Serve the roasted cornish hen with white rice and blanched vegetables.