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Cornish Game Hens?

I am a roast chicken fanatic and have my perfect recipe. But I was thinking of trying game hens, for a dinner for four, but have never done them. Any good recipes or advice?? Should I not bother?

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  1. An excellent choice! So easy to do and so elegant for a dinner party. The biggest question you need to answer is how big is the appetite of your eaters? Will you serve a whole hen per person or half? My recommendation is to allow one whole, you will enjoy leftovers

    For 4 people:
    4 cornish hens, backbone removed, butterflied/spatchcocked
    s&p to taste
    2 T garlic
    1 tsp paprika
    1tsp chopped rosemary
    1tsp chopped thyme
    1 cup apricot jam
    2 T balsamic vinegar
    1 tsp curry powder
    1 cup chile sauce (Heinz or Bennet's)
    2 T brown sugar

    Preheat broiler - sprinkle hens with paste made from s&p, garlic, paprika, rosemary, thyme on both sides. Broil skin side down for 10 min, till lightly browned. Turn hens over, baste. Broil skin side up for 10 min, making sure they don't burn. Combine remaining ingredients in quart size microwavable bowl, heat in M/W for 3-5 min, stirring to combine. Baste hens with sauce, broil 10-15 min more, making sure they don't burn. Total cooking time should be 45 min. Excellent served with couscous, wild/white rice or other pasta side dish and green vegetable.

    1. Tom_P here's my report of Virginia Willis' recipe for Cornish game hens. It's from her book, Bon Appetit Y'All:

      Mama's Orange Glazed Cornish Game Hens, Ch. 8 Gospel Birds and Game Birds, Pg. 120

      My oh my what a luscious meal this made! Orangey, buttery, savory, and Deeeelicious.
      Two game hens are spatchcocked then rubbed with a wonderful composite butter made with fresh chopped thyme and parsley leaves, minced shallots, orange zest, unsalted butter, S & P... I added a teaspoon of Grand Marnier for good measure. A bit of the butter is put under the skin of each hen. The hens are then seasoned with S & P and the rest of the butter is smeared all over each. The hens are roasted, skin side up, in a 450F oven till they are golden. This takes a little over 30 minutes.

      Remove the hens to a warm platter and tent to keep warm while the sauce is made. This is comprised of sherry, orange juice, and chicken stock which is set over medium heat, stirred and allowed to reduce and thicken a bit. A Very Nice dish, this. Once again, easy, fast and a wonderful way to serve these little birds. I made the Fingerling Potato Salad on pg.48 again to serve along with them.
      Gio May 03, 2009 09:13AM

      If you'd like more definite ingredient amounts let me know.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Gio

        YAY! I love that you call mama's cgm a "luscious" meal! I LOVE them. I think I might make that for dinner! Hope all is well. Best VA

        1. re: virginia willis

          Well we Did love that recipe and have made it several times since May, Virginia.
          Happy Holidays to you and.... can't wait for your new book!

          1. re: Gio

            I'm just pawing the ding dang :) ground waiting for the book to arrive.

      2. No disrespect to those who like to take the backbone out of the bird...but I like the presentation of the whole roasted bird; it just looks nice. I like to take some fresh thyme leaves, kosher salt & pepper and a bit of olive oil, mix together and rub between the skin and outside of the bird.

        Then slice some oranges very thin and place some between the skin and in the cavity. Roast the bird until the skin becomes crispy and golden. During the last 20 minutes of cooking,baste with a little melted orange marmalade mixed with a bit of butter. Serve with red potatoes roasted in some of the rendered chicken fat or rice pilaf with toasted almonds & apricots...

        1 Reply
        1. re: Cherylptw

          I second the roasting of the CGH. Do the above recipe, and you can even skip the bit with the oranges and marmelade, if you like (although it IS nummy)!

        2. Anyone ever just deep fried one whole? I am really toying with the idea of trying it. Seems like it could be awesome . . . .

          5 Replies
          1. re: MGZ

            Go for it....

            Have Fun and Enjoy!

            1. re: MGZ

              That sounds like it would be delicious..why shouldn't it work? Everything else poultry has been fried!

              1. re: Cherylptw

                It does work!! They're delicious deep fried....bring them to room temperature so they want chill the hot(360*-375* Peanut) oil....They MUST be totally and completely dry inside and out...This is a MUST! A deep pot is needed...the deeper the better...fill no more then 1/2 full...Don't crowd/over fill the pot....Ready in less than 10 minutes...probably closer to 6-8 minutes...They'll float...Did I tell you they MUST be 100% dry....Water and Hot oil don't mix...Season with Salt & pepper..really any seasoning you like inside and out...Some people flour them..I don't...Think Fried Turkey. Delicious!

                Have Fun, Be Careful & Enjoy!

                1. re: Uncle Bob

                  What about using an injectable marinade like you do when you make a deep fried cajun turkey? Would that work with the little birds, too?

                  1. re: danhole

                    Never tried it, but don't see why not!

            2. I invited some people to dinner featuring Cornish game hens a number of years ago. I like to serve them bone in; that was a mistake. One of the women refused to accept the bone-in serving, saying she never eats anything with the bone(s) in it.
              Therefore, just to avoid embarrassment, I de-bone game hens when serving guests (those people won't be invited back - but there may be others of similar ilk out there and I don't need the confrontation) unless I know for a certainty that they are not repulsed by bones in their serving of protein.
              Cornish game hens are to versatile, you can apply any recipe or cooking method that might apply to other forms of fowl and they'll be great.

              7 Replies
              1. re: todao

                Personally, I like bone in meat; fish, chicken, pork...more flavor!

                1. re: hankstramm

                  If you would like to bone the Cornish Hens, Poussin, Quail or Squab poultry... consider stuffing with a meat, fish or vegetable mouse filling instead of rice. It's a nice twist and presentation.


                  1. re: fourunder

                    Do you mean mousse instead of mouse? Not being facetious but I have never heard of a meat, fish or vegetable mousse before, and I know you didn't mean mouse. Not that me not being familiar with that means it isn't so. Just makes me curious. I looked at the link and there you said you didn't like to stuff them. Did you change your mind?

                    1. re: danhole

                      In addition to a dessert, mousse refers to a pureed meat or fish dish. It's sort of like a pate.

                      1. re: danhole


                        Why wouldn't one use mouse?.......Yes I meant to say mousse, thanks for picking that mistake out, and true, I do not like stuffed birds of any kind most of the time. i was just offering options for others to think out of the box.

                        Mr Parker is correct....the only restaurants I have had it outside of a Chinese restaurants was @ Slightly North of Broad (SNOB), where the stuffed and roasted quail's cavity was filled with a chicken mousse. .....It was like eating a chicken meatball . In Chinese restaurants, I have had squabs filled with Shrimp Mousse, and the squabs were deep fried......Shrimp mousse is a popular filling used for Dim Sum and for stuffing items, e.g., like tofu, eggplants and peppers. It could then be steamed or deep fried. Ming Tsai had a dish he made on one of his shows where he actually served a Prime New York Strip Loin Steak topped with Shrimp Mousse and baked it off.....it looked very good..



                        1. re: fourunder

                          Well I am educated now! Thanks to both of you. I thought about a pate, but never have experienced a meat mousse. Sounds intriguing. And I am a big fan of Ming Tsai, so I will check that out.

                    2. re: todao

                      Whoa. What kind of weirdo has osteophobia? Man, I've never heard of somebody freaking out because there was a bone in their bird (or steak, or chop).

                      Back on topic, I have never had the pleasure of sampling a Cornish game hen (I've always wanted to), but after reading through this thread I think I may have to force the issue.

                    3. I made one last nite! I spatchcocked the thing (following Alton Browns "You Tube" instructions-very easy and neat) and cooked it in cast iron w/another, smaller iron skillet on top. First on the cooktop, then in the oven. It was ridiculously good, easy and pretty. Good eats, indeed!

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                        Could you give more details please? That sounds terrific.

                        1. re: c oliver

                          I hope this helps- I don't know how to create a hyperlink. I used a small cast iron pan instead of the brick. I also used my own seasoning mix. Gosh, it was good!


                          1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                            That sounds terrific. Did you serve a half or a whole to each person? Thanks.

                            1. re: c oliver


                              A half a bird......I would have to hit McDonald's on the way home after dinner.


                              1. re: fourunder

                                My husband and I usually split one but would probably serve whole ones ato guests.

                                1. re: c oliver

                                  You know I'm only teasing...right?

                                  1. re: fourunder

                                    Well, I didn't Mr. Smarty Britches :) So a whole or a half? Make up your mind!

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      On the smallish side - 1 whole to each.
                                      Larger - half to each.
                                      At least in My house.
                                      Love them wood grilled with a teriyaki marinade.

                                      1. re: Gio

                                        Wood grilled...Mmmm Mmmm Good!!!

                                      2. re: c oliver

                                        Funny banter!

                                        My son and I split it, but I have to admit that he had already consumed practically a whole meal at his friend's hour a bit earlier- normal behavior for a physically active teenager, apparently. The 1/2 was enough for me, along w/roast fingerlings and braised greens. I had no strong desire to hit the drive thru after supper.

                                        That little bird looked SO CUTE after cooking, and also looked nice when split in 1/2. Pretty presentation.

                        2. I have frequently split these and laid them over a pan of stuffing, then baked them that way. Just brush with butter and season generously. The stuffing should not be too moist, nor too thick, since the birds will cook fairly quickly and throw off some liquid besides. Bread stuffing or cornbread stuffing are nice; rice and mushroom would be good, too.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Will Owen

                            Around Thanksgiving time I saw a re-run of Jacques and Julia and Jacques cooked his turkey that way. (I don't think he split it, though. Just somewhat deboned it, IIRC.) Now reading that you've done the same thing with hens, I'm going to try it with other poultry too. Thank you, Will Owen!

                            1. re: Gio

                              I did the spatchcocking thing with my turkey this year and thought very hard about laying it over stuffing, but wound up just putting it on a bed of coarsely chopped vegetables, because I wanted the stuffing (or dressing or whatever) in a separate casserole. Maybe next year. They cook SO much faster! And better.