Every once in a while, I get an urge to make Cornish Hens for dinner. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I’m always surprised with how easy they are to work with. I really should make them more often. They are wonderful for entertaining with, (I always get a lot of “Oooh! Aren’t they cute?” when I entertain with them.) but recipes like this one, are simple enough to whip up on a busy weeknight for dinner.
Cornish Hens are, for lack of a better explanation, very small chickens. They aren’t full-grown, like the big fryers you can buy in the poultry section of your grocery store. Oftentimes, you can actually find them in your grocer’s freezer. If you like chicken, you’ll like Cornish Hens. Don’t let the “Game Hen” name fool you…they don’t taste ‘gamey’ at all. They taste, as many things do, just like chicken.
(I just realized that this is the second lemony post this week. I’m sorry! I guess I’ve got lemons on the brain lately. They just seem so fresh and clean to me in the summer time.)
To start this dish, I got two Cornish Hens and split them in half. Using my kitchen shears, I easily cut up one side of the backbone, and then up the other side. Backbone removed, I then took my largest Chef’s knife and split them in half at the breast.
(Don’t be intimidated by the butchery. I’m no butcher and it took all of five minutes.)
Once they were split, I got out a large ovenproof frying pan, heated up a bit of olive oil in it and browned the birds up, two at a time.
Once they had a nice, golden crust, I snuggled them all up together in the pan and placed the pan in my oven to roast for about twenty minutes.
As the little guys sizzled away in the oven, I sliced up a large lemon, minced up some garlic, and chopped up some fresh rosemary and parsley.
Just before the birds came out of the oven, I placed my lemon slices on a large plate and microwaved them for a minute. Just long enough for them to heat through and release some of their juices.
Then, I tossed the heated lemons with the garlic, rosemary, parsley, and a little more olive oil and laid them all out over the bottom of a 9×13 inch dish.
As the hens came out of the oven, I transferred them to the lemon filled dish to rest for a bit. I turned them every couple of minutes, so that they were covered from head to toe in those wonderful juices, herbs and garlic.
After they had rested for about ten minutes, I served them up for dinner! See how easy that was?
The hens were perfectly cooked, and even though they weren’t marinated in the lemon and herbs, you’d never know it. The time they’d spent hanging out in the dish had been long enough to give them all kinds of amazing flavor.
It made for a delicious, fresh change up to the weekday routine. In fact, if I just made sure to keep a couple of these little guys on hand in the freezer, it would be a great go-to meal for when life hands me a lemon! I love it when just a few simple ingredients can produce something this good for dinner.
LEMON HERB CORNISH HENS
Adapted from Cuisine at Home
- 2 Cornish Game Hens, halved and seasoned with salt and pepper on both sides
- 4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
- 1 lemon, sliced into thin rounds
- 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
- 1 Tbsp. each chopped fresh rosemary and parsley
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 450*F.
- Heat 1 Tbsp. of the olive oil in a large, ovenproof, nonstick skillet. Saute' two birds at a time, starting with the skin side down, in the pan until golden, about 4 minutes. Flip and cook for another two minutes. Remove the two halves and set aside, and then repeat with the other two halves.
- Once all four are browned, nestle them snug in the pan, skin side up, and place them in the oven.
- Roast the hens, uncovered, until a meat thermometer reads 165* at the thickest part of the breast, about 20 minutes total.
- Right before the hens are done, lay the lemon slices out on a plate and microwave them for 1 minute.
- Combine the heated lemon slices, remaining olive oil, garlic, rosemary, and parsley in a large baking dish.
- Remove the hens from the oven and place them in the lemon filled dish, skin side down. Let them rest for ten minutes on the lemons, turning every few minutes or so, to make sure they are well coated with the lemon-garlic mixture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.