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Serves 6 or more
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.