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Deep-Fried Cornish Game Hens

2 1-1/2-pound Cornish game hens
Vegetable shortening or oil for deep-frying
freshly ground pepper
lemon wedges for serving

Some notes: Don't fill your stockpot more than half full with
shortening/oil, to allow for the inevitable boiling up when the
hens are added. Also, be sure the hens are at room temperature so
the fat temperature doesn't drop dramatically from the shock of an
ice-cold bird.

Rinse the hens and pat completely dry, inside and out, with paper
towels. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Preheat the
oven to 200 degrees F. Place a large wire cake rack over a jelly
roll pan/cookie sheet. In a stockpot, melt vegetable shortening
over high heat to a depth of 2 to 3 inches and heat it to 375
degrees F. Carefully put 1 Cornish hen in the hot shortening. Deep
fry, turning occasionally, until golden brown, about 12 minutes.
To check for doneness, using a wire mesh skimmer (slotted spoon
fine here) and tongs, carefully remove the hen from the stockpot
and insert and instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of
the thigh, not touching the bone - it should read 180 degrees F.
Transfer to the wire rack and keep warm in the oven while frying
the other hen. Let the second hen rest for 5 minutes. Serve whole,
or use a cleaver to split the hens lengthwise. Serve with the salt,
pepper, and lemon wedges, letting each person season his or her
hen to taste.

Makes 2 to 4 servings.


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