Here’s another delicious way to cook a “soup hen”. We usually stew them, to end up with a very richly-flavoured soup. As many people know, they make the best chicken soup, no question about it.
They generally require a longer cooking time than the chicken that most people are used to, because they are older birds and therefore the meat is less tender (unless slowly simmered).
This method of brining chicken in kefir (or buttermilk) tenderizes the chicken, and is excellent for soup hens.
Basically, just brine the chicken overnight, roast it for a couple hours - and end up with tender, flavourful meat. Soup hens are usually not quite as tender as a young "meat chicken", but we like it better this way anyways, since the meat has more texture (and flavour).
A simple seasoning is to sprinkle paprika and sea salt over the chicken before roasting it. This results in sweet and crispy skin.
This method would also work for cooking chicken pieces, a whole "meat chicken", and I also know someone who swears by this method for cooking rabbit.
Soak a soup hen (3 - 4 pounds) in kefir or buttermilk overnight, or for up to 36 hours.
Tip: Use a large ziploc bag, because it keeps the chicken well-coated while requiring less kefir. Alternately, soak the soup hen in a large bowl or saucepan, turning it every once in a while to keep it coated with kefir.
Set the soup hen into a roasting pan, and pour the remaining brine over it.
Sprinkle with generous portions of paprika and sea salt. If desired, add a few pinches of a dried green herb, such as sage, thyme or rosemary.
Add about 1 inch of water to the pan. If using a stone pan, it works well to roast the chicken uncovered. If using a metal pan, cover the pan with a lid, and uncover it for the last half hour or so of cooking time (to brown and crisp the skin, if needed).
Roast at 325 for 2.5 hours (or, another half hour for a larger soup hen).
During the last half hour, add your choice of vegetables around the bird.
examples: large chunks of potatoes, peeled squash, beets, cabbage, parsnips, carrots, garlic cloves, celeriac, etc
shown in the photo: thick slices of potato and sweet potato; frozen peas were added to the mixture for the last 2 minutes in the oven
Remove from the oven, and let it sit (preferably covered) for a few minutes before carving it.
The water in the bottom of the pan has turned into a rich broth - use every drop! If it's too much for the current meal, save it to add to the next day's cooked veggies or meat dish.