Last week, I posted my recipe for Quinoa Casserole with Broccoli and Asparagus and told you I made it with Cornish game hens. I’m sure you’ve been waiting on pins and needles by your computer for the game hen recipe, but alas, the wait is over! Okay, okay… I know it’s more likely you’re thinking, “Cornish game hens, that sounds really complicated. I’d never make that.” I’m here to tell you, it’s really not that difficult! The methods are pretty simple, and I have faith in you. You could really impress your Valentine with your culinary prowess by making these hens. You could also use this same recipe with a full-sized chicken – you’d just need to adjust the cooking time until the internal temperature is 165 degrees. I’ve made Cornish hens before, and they turned out well, but with this recipe, they turn out amazing! I loosely used this recipe as a guide, but I added my own spins, and I think I’ve got it perfected now!
When you buy the hens in the store, they will most likely be frozen. You’ll want to buy them a day or two ahead of time to give them time to thaw in the refrigerator. I made a compound butter with garlic, lemon zest, rosemary, and thyme to spread on the skin of the hens. The butter will not stick to the hens if they are wet, so make sure the skin is good and dry.
To make sure the hens had as much flavor as possible, I stuffed them with a lemon wedge, onion, and a sprig of rosemary. I also added 8 or 10 cloves of garlic to the roaster pan for extra flavor. The garlic flavors the chicken as it cooks and becomes very sweet as it roasts, which comes into play later for a delicious and simple roasted garlic sauce.
The baking process for the hens is two-part. You bake them first at 450 degrees for 25 minutes to get the skin crispy. Then you finish them off at 350 degrees for about another 25-30 minutes, basting them every 10 minutes. I don’t have a baster, so I just used a pastry brush and it worked great! When the hens were done, I made a simple sauce right in the roaster pan on the stove, using the roasted garlic and juices that were in the pan.
That’s it! I told you it was easy! The directions might seem long, but I’m being very specific so anyone can follow them. These hens are so flavorful and juicy, and like I said, you could really impress someone with these. They are perfect for a special occasion like Valentine’s Day but easy enough that anyone can make them right at home, without going to a fancy restaurant! I hope you’ll give them a try!
Cornish Game Hens with Roasted Garlic Sauce
2 Cornish hens
1/2 stick of butter, room temperature
8 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed
4 sprigs of rosemary, remove leaves from 2
1 clove of garlic, minced or grated
salt and pepper
8-10 cloves of garlic, skins removed and lightly crushed
1 onion, skin removed
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup white wine
about 1 cup chicken stock, divided
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Wash hens and thoroughly pat dry with paper towels. Set aside.
To make the compound butter, strip the leaves from about 8 sprigs of thyme by holding the sprig at the top and dragging your fingers down the stem. Do the same with two sprigs of rosemary. Chop the herbs finely. In a small bowl, mix 1/2 stick of softened butter with the herbs, about a teaspoon of lemon zest, one clove of garlic – minced or grated on a microplane, and salt and pepper. Set aside.
Quarter the lemon and onion. Stuff one onion and lemon quarter inside each hen, along with one sprig of rosemary. Tie the legs with kitchen string, or if you don’t have that, you can use a rubber band. Or just leave them if you feel like the onion and lemon won’t fall out – that’s what we did.
Carefully loosen the skin on the breast side of the hen from the meat, and spread some of your compound butter in between the meat and the skin, reserving half of the butter. This is what gives the meat itself flavor and keeps it moist. Spread the remaining butter all over the top (breast side) of the hens.
Place the hens in the roasting pans, breast side up, and spread 8-10 cloves of garlic (skins removed) around the outside. Pour about 1/2 of an inch of chicken stock in the pan – just enough to make sure the garlic cloves don’t burn. Bake for 25 minutes at 450 degrees.
Mix together wine, 1/3 cup of chicken stock, and about 1 Tablespoon of olive oil. Pour over hens and put back in the oven at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes total, or until the temperature of the thigh is 165 degrees. Every ten minutes, take the hens out and baste with the garlicky stock/wine/oil mixture in the pan.
When the hens are done, take them out of the roasting pan and put the pan on the stove on medium to medium high heat (or transfer the garlic and juice from the pan to a pot if you are more comfortable with that). With a fork, smash the garlic cloves. In a mixing cup, mix about 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch with about 1/4 of a cup of cold water (I did not measure these) with a fork until there are no lumps. Slowly pour into garlic sauce and whisk to thicken. You may not use all of your cornstarch mixture, but keep it nearby in case you want to add more. You won’t know how thick it will be until it boils. Once it reaches desired consistency, it’s done! Place hens on plate and cover with garlic sauce. Enjoy!