At recipe tastings, one of the most frequent complaints about roast poultry skin is that it's flabby, not crispy. This came up again yesterday as we tasted a Cornish hen recipe we're working on: the flavor's great, but the skin could be better. How to solve this dilemma?
We know from past experience that if you let any kind of poultry sit uncovered in the fridge overnight, the skin dries out a bit and tends to crisp more easily. This works especially well if you salt the bird first. Our recipe already calls for letting the seasoned hens sit in the fridge for at least one hour and up to six, so next time, we're going to try it overnight instead.
Will this work? Stay tuned for the answer, and if you have any other ideas, let us know!
The results: The overnight salting treatment worked in more ways than one. The skin did turn out crisper, though the difference wasn't that dramatic. What was dramatic was the improved flavor of the hens - the salt had penetrated much better and the flavor of the hens really sang. As for the skin, we did make one other change in addition to the overnight treatment. On recommendation from the recipe's author, we switched from brushing the hens with oil to brushing them with butter. Had we left off the fat entirely, the skin may have been even crisper, but the fat helps the skin brown, something that's needed for these little butterflied hens that don't need long in the oven to cook.