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Defrosting the Cornish hens, now what??? Recipes? Tips?

Hi all. Just going through my deep freezer and found Cornish hens that I bought on sale ($2.09/lb) about a month ago. Each one is about 1/2-3/4 of a pound. I just tossed the frozen birds into the fridge and am now drawing a complete blank about preparing them as it has been a few years since I've cooked Cornish hens.

First, how long do I let them defrost in the fridge? They are solidly frozen through and through.

Second, should I expect a giblet bag inside? Do I stuff them with citrus or anything to keep them moist? How long do I cook them until they are done? Best seasonings? Would doing them in a Brown-In-Bag be cheating??? What temp in the oven?

Thank you in advance for any tips, suggestions, warnings :-), or other things I should keep in mind when working with these birds.

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  1. I love Cornish hens on the grill. Split them in half, marinade them in olive oil, lime juice, cumin and garlic. Then toss them on the grill. When they are almost done, I brush on Jalepeno jelly that's been thinned with lime juice.

    3 Replies
    1. re: janetms383

      janetms383, that recipe sounds utterly delicious! Sadly, my grill has been packed away for winter. I wonder if the recipe would work with baking them? The flavors sound lovely.

      1. re: ideabaker

        wasn't sure where you were located. I'm in So Calif and it's in the high 80's today... bad for the wild fires, but we can still grill outdoors!

        1. re: janetms383

          Lucky you! (Except for the fires...) We are expecting snow showers later this week :-(

    2. Yes, you should have giblets. But just make a basting sauce of currant jelly, mustard, and garlic. Roast those babies and brush with sauce -- delicious!

      4 Replies
      1. re: somervilleoldtimer

        somervilleoldtimer, so, I take out the giblets, then baste with your suggested sauce (I love the taste of fruits and meats together so would imagine the currant jelly, mustard/garlic mix would be delightful!)... at what temp would you roast, and for how long? Thank you for your suggestion. Also, would another kind of preserve/jelly taste as good... raspberry or apricot for instance?

        1. re: ideabaker

          Yes. Take out the giblets when the birds are thawed. Rub inside and out with salt and pepper, and possibly a cut clove of garlic, and rub with some of the sauce. Roast at 350, about 15 minutes/pound? What do others say? Not very long. Keep basting with the rest of the sauce. Make a lovely rice salad to go with. Yum!

          I wouldn't use raspberry. Apricot might be tasty. I like red currant because there's a tang in addition to all that flavor and sweetness.

          1. re: somervilleoldtimer

            somervilleoldtimer, the flavors sound yummy so I'm headed out to get some blackcurrant jelly today... I also like Will Owen's idea of serving them split over sausage laden stuffing; I may try combining your two methods. Boy am I getting hungry thinking about these little birds. I put two of them in the fridge to defrost, should I expect that to serve four, or only two???

            1. re: ideabaker

              Probably only one per serving. There's not a ton of meat on a bird.

      2. One of my grandfather's specialties is rock cornish hens cooked on a rotisserie, basted with barbecue sauce. Yum!

        1. The ones I get usually don't have the giblets, but it is easy to check. You should rinse them inside and out anyway before preparing.

          They could fully defrost in two days, the back of the fridge is usually colder than the front because people open the fridge door all the time.

          Cooking:
          To keep them very moist, I bake them in a covered baking dish (not just foiled) for an hour at 400 degrees and then uncover and bake again for about 45 minutes for a nice brown. Now, oven temps will vary sometimes, so check the birds after the uncovered phase after 30 minutes. If not brown enough after 45 minutes, turn on the broiler for five minutes or so. I like them moist and tender, so I cook covered longer than most people

          I like to stuff them with a rice mixture. Cook rice first, just a little under done, not much) Use chicken broth for cooking rice.

          2 recipes come to mind:
          Cook White rice, add iced apricots and celery, green onion, curry spice, salt (can add slivered almonds if you want)

          Cook Pecan rice (Konriko) and tablespoon of wild rice, add diced artichoke hearts, pecans, salt and pepper
          (Note: Konriko Pecan rice can be hard to find. Also, the rice is a variety of wild rice and has a nutty flavor. Some boxes will include a packet of pecan flavor and pecans, but not necessary. The rice variety has an inherent nutty flavor.

          Here's a picture of the pecan rice http://shopping.msn.com/prices/konrik...

          That's the way I have preprared hens, (sorry, didn't use a recipe), but there are many recipes online and I hope to read about more here on CH of the proven sucesses of them.

          They are just little chickens, a little gamier flavor. There are multiude of ways to prepare them just as there are ways to bake chickens.

          1 Reply
          1. re: kc girl

            Mmmm.... sounds yummy... now where is the top to my
            Dutch Oven??? I too seek the tender outside with a bit of crunch to the skin. Will definitely try your recipe, probably with short grained brown rice cooked in chicken broth (a fave). Thanks for the suggestion!

          2. This recipe using the game hens instead of chicken is a healthy way to enjoy them.

            http://www.chow.com/recipes/11318

            1. Here is a link to my all time favourite recipe for cornish hens. The pan sauce is easy and delicious with the hens and a simple mashed potato side...

              http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

              1 Reply
              1. re: chai

                Thanks for the recipe, chai, that broth sounds heavenly (I've never been great at sauces or broths), and I like the cloves of whole garlic in it. I have two more hens still in the freezer, think I'll try preparing those with your recipe!

              2. I never see any giblets with mine. I either just season them and brush well with oil and butter and then roast them quickly at 400º, or cut out the backbone and spread them out, two up, sandwiched in a wire grilling rack, seasoned as above, then cooked either on the grill or in a hot oven. Another favorite thing to do, this in the winter, is to split and season the birds and lay them cut-side-down over a pan of good bread stuffing, not overly moist as the birds will run their juices into it. Cornbread/sourdough stuffing with plenty of sausage is my favorite.

                1 Reply
                1. I've never seen a giblet bag in Cornish Hens; it may depend on the brand..
                  I stuff an entire head of garlic inside, and then either roast them basted with Orange Marmalade; or salt bake them after dusting with cajun/creole seasoning.

                  1. All these different sauces sound wonderful. I like to spatchcock mine and rub herbed butter under the skin before roasting in a hot oven. I usually stick a couple of apples in to bake alongside, and serve with rice cooked in chicken broth.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: weezycom

                      Sounds luscious... when you say a "hot oven" what do you mean... 450? Higher? Lower?

                        1. re: weezycom

                          Thanks for that. The herbed butter sounds fantastic and I would imagine it would insure a juicy bird. Do you (or does anybody) put anything inside of/underneath (if butterflied) the birds? (I don't know why, but I see the space and want to put something, a lemon, orange, something, inside of it). I'm most concerned with them being flavorful and moist (not overcooked).

                          1. re: ideabaker

                            I've done it with a fairly typical sausage/celery/onion stuffing under the birds before, but because they are small and therefore a fairly short cooking time, there isn't a lot of juice that drips out. If you want more flavor, how about a bit of orange zest in the herbed butter and orange slices underneath while roasting?

                    2. In the last couple of minutes of his FN Turkey help-line show, Alton Brown made a 12 minute Cornish hen on a panini grill. He cut out the backbone, flattened it, put it on the grill, and then added a couple of bricks to weigh down the lid.

                      1. Incredibly easy & delicious: Split birds in half, and season with salt & pepper. Place skin side up in baking dish and brush with melted butter. Roast in pre-heated oven at 350 degrees for one hour, turning after one half hour. Meanwhile, warm a few tbs. of apricot preserves and add in a bit of lemon juice. At end of one hour, turn birds back with skin side up, brush with preserves/lemon juice, sprinkle some sesame seeds on top, and bake for another 15 minutes. (YOu can also prepare chicken thighs this way.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: masha

                          masha, not only do I have a couple of hens defrosting, but also a pack of chicken thighs. Think I will try your recipe (adding marjoram and chicken broth per other CH'ers) with the chicken right away. Will get back to you! Thank you for the tip!