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Pat's Deep-Fried Cornish Game Hens

['1 tablespoon kosher salt', '1 tablespoon crushed red-pepper flakes', '1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper', '1 tablespoon poultry seasoning', '2 teaspoons cayenne pepper', '2 teaspoons lemon-pepper seasoning', '3 quarts buttermilk', '1 onion, cut into wedges', '1 bunch fresh thyme sprigs', 'Six 1 1/2-pound Cornish game hens', 'Peanut oil, for frying', '2 cups all-purpose flour']

Whisk together the first six ingredients in a small bowl. Set half of this mixture aside.
Divide the remaining seasoning mixture between two large mixing bowls, and pour the buttermilk evenly between the two bowls, whisking to combine. Put half of the onion and thyme in each bowl. Place three game hens in each mixing bowl, and turn to coat. Cover the bowls with plastic wrap, and leave in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight (the longer the better; allow the seasonings and flavors to permeate the game hens).
Heat the peanut oil to 375 degrees F in a large Dutch oven or deep-fryer. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees F, and cover two heavy-duty sheet trays with wire racks. Remove the game hens from the buttermilk mixture while the oil is heating.
Whisk together the flour and the remaining seasoning mixture in a large casserole. Working with one game hen at a time, put one game hen in the flour and toss to coat, then shake off the excess. Slip the coated game hens, in batches according to the size of your fryer, into the hot oil, and fry for 13 minutes, until beautifully golden brown. Place each fried hen on the wire-rack-fitted sheet tray, and hold in the warm oven. Repeat with remaining hens.
Baked Cornish Game Hens Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cover two heavy-duty rimmed sheet trays with wire racks, and spray with nonstick spray.
Drain the hens from the buttermilk marinade, and pat dry. Place the hens on the sheet trays, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
Put the pan in the oven, and roast for 45 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees F and the juices run clear.
One of the things I think people really don't know about me is that I was frying food before I was grilling! (Nowadays my love of fried food comes second only to my love of grilling.) Fried food in the South is like pizza in Chicago: if you grew up in Memphis, you grew up with it. My grandfather used to fry whole rabbits, and my grandmother used to fry chicken for breakfast, served up with biscuits!
1 CHOOSE YOUR OIL Neutral oils like peanut, safflower, canola, and vegetable oil all have a high "smoke point," so they work well at high frying temperatures. We often like to use peanut oil, because it adds a very subtle peanut flavor; the flavor of canola oil is less pronounced.
2 PICK YOUR POT If you don't have an electric fryer, select a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven for deep-frying. You'll usually need at least 3 or 4 inches of oil in the bottom of the pan, but more if you're frying something larger, like Cornish game hens or chicken.
3 FILL IT UP Be careful not to overfill your pot! If you don't leave room for the items you're frying, the oil may spill over the sides, causing a mess or, even worse, a fire. To check how much oil you need, you can first do a test run with water. Fill the pot up with water, then slip in the food you're going to try. Wherever the water rises to, that's how high your oil is going to go—so mark that place on the pot, and don't fill it too high!

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