Seasoned with lavender and thyme, which herald the return of spring, these roasted poussins are aromatic and flavorful, and just unique enough to be a memorable meal.
Text And Photo By Sara Clevering
Roast chicken is a quintessential comfort food, and properly done, can hardly be improved upon. But even the classics are fun to play with, and by downsizing your chicken you can put an intimate, elegant spin on things. Poussins are, despite a fancy French name, nothing more than your standard chicken in miniature, weighing in under a pound and less than 28 days old.
- 1 teaspoon dried lavender buds
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- ½ teaspoon dried or fresh thyme leaves, (minced if fresh)
- ¼ teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 poussins (young chickens; about 1 pound/just under a half kilo each) or 2 small Cornish hens (about 1¼ pounds/ just above a half kilo)
- 2 small lemons
- scant ¼ (50 mL) Sauternes or other sweet white wine
- Preheat oven to 475°F/250°C.
- Using a fork, smash the lavender, thyme, zest, salt and pepper into the butter until well mixed to create a compound butter.
- Pat the birds dry. Take a bird and very gently slide fingers between meat and skin to loosen the skin from the body (be careful not to tear the skin), both over the breast meat and the thigh.
- Take the compound butter and slide it up into the pockets of skin you have created over the breast but also making sure to also smear some butter over the thigh. You can tie the legs of each bird together or nestle them together snugly in the baking dish, preferably a flameproof one that is safe for your stovetop.
- Cut one lemon in half and divide each half into quarters for a total of eight pieces. Stuff each bird with four pieces of lemon. (Using smaller pieces allows you to more effectively stuff the small cavity of the poussin). Take the second lemon, cut in half, and squeeze one half over both birds.
- Roast birds in middle of oven 30 minutes (for poussins) to 45 minutes (for Cornish hens), or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of a thigh (be careful not to touch bone) registers 170° F. Check after 25 minutes.
- Put the roasted birds on a platter and loosely cover with foil to keep warm.
- Add Sauternes to roasting pan and put over moderate heat, deglazing the pan by scraping up the brown bits. Simmer until the liquid is reduced to a sauce. (If your roasting pan is not safe for the burner, transfer the chicken juices to a saucepan, then add the wine and simmer). Spoon over your poussins and serve.
- Accompany your birds with roasted fingerling potatoes and crusty artisinal bread that can sop of the flavorful sauce.