There is something just so elegant about a Cornish hen. Maybe it’s the size, but it looks so divine when cooked and served. Half a Cornish hen per serving is the perfect sized meal, and if you have a big appetite, you can definitely eat a whole hen! It is the perfect little bird to cook for one or two.
Can you imagine how cute it would look when served?
This Cornish hen recipe is so easy you can make and serve it within an hour. It’s basically like roasting a mini chicken.
If you have guests over, serve several hens on a platter with veggies, and it looks like a magnificent feast!
All you have to do is rub the hens with herbed butter, stuff more herbs in the cavity, truss, and bake. It’s as simple as that. Add some veggies to the baking dish, and you have a one-pan meal that’s elegant, easy, and delicious.
What Is A Cornish Game Hen?
Cornish game hens are small chickens that resulted from cross-breeding several chickens and game birds.
They are a combination of Cornish and White Plymouth Rock chickens. They are young hens (less than 5 weeks old) usually under two pounds.
Because they are so young, the meat is very tender and their skin is thin and delicate, so they can’t be overstuffed.
- Cornish hens: you can find them frozen and they usually come in pairs. Let them thaw overnight in the fridge before cooking them and take them out of the fridge at least an hour before to make sure they are completely thawed. Before spreading butter to the whole chicken, pat it dry or the butter won’t stick to the skin.
- Butter: spreading butter over the skin of the hens ensures a proper browning and by adding herbs to the butter you are adding lots of flavor to the skin.
- Herbs: the most commonly used herbs for cooking poultry are sage, rosemary, and thyme.
- Lime or lemon gives Cornish hens a delicious and delicate citrus flavor when inserted in the cavity. You can use any citrus fruit you like, I prefer to use limes which are a bit stronger and tart.
- Onion and garlic: just a bit of both can infuse the birds with their aroma very subtly. Insert a smashed garlic clove and a piece of onion in the cavity but don’t overstuff it. They are so small that if you over-stuff them, they can burst in the oven.
- Salt and pepper: after adding the herbed butter to the whole chicken, add salt and pepper liberally to both sides and inside the cavity.
- Russet potatoes: use your favorite potatoes to bake with your hens. I like russets, but you can also use Idaho or Yukon gold.
- Carrots: I use large carrots because I like them in big chunks so they bake evenly with the potatoes.
How To Make Cornish Hen
- Preheat the oven to 425 F. In a small bowl, combine the softened butter with the chopped herbs.
- Wash and pat dry the Cornish hens. When thoroughly dried, spread herbed butter all over the outside of the hens on all sides.
- Insert ¼ lime wedge, onion, garlic, and a sprig of rosemary, thyme, and sage inside the cavity of each hen.
- Sprinkle them with salt and pepper and transfer them to a baking dish. Tuck the wings of the hens below the body and truss (tie the legs together with string).
- Add the diced veggies to the bottom of the baking dish and bake for 50 mins or until the hens are brown.
What Do You Eat With Cornish Hens
This is the perfect one-pan meal because you can roast veggies along with the hens. As the herbed butter melts, this too will season the veggies.
To complete this dish though, I would recommend serving a salad and freshly baked bread. Look for the following salad and bread recipes: Healthier Waldorf Salad, Creamy Caesar Salad Dressing, The Best Tossed Salad, Homemade Cheese Bread, Homemade Biscuit Bread, Easy No-Knead Dutch Oven Bread, and Homemade Bakery French Bread.
- Make sure the hens are completely thawed before prepping them. If they are still a bit frozen, it will be impossible to dry them and they won’t cook properly.
- Remember to pat them dry very well. Have a paper towel handy if they become moist again before spreading them with butter.
- Do not over-stuff them or they might burst in the oven. They are very delicate and tender.
- Don’t forget to tuck the wings under the body, they burn easily.
- When you truss them, tie them at the ankles so they sit pretty and look plump.
- Remember to add salt and pepper to them after the butter. And add it to the veggies too.
- Check them after the 45 min count. Do not bake them for more than 50 mins or they might dry out.
OTHER RECIPES YOU MIGHT ENJOY
- Baked Salsa Chicken
- Crock Pot Chicken Thighs
- How To Make Oven-baked Bbq Chicken Wings
- Baked Teriyaki Chicken Thighs
- Cilantro Lime Chicken
Roasted Cornish Hen with Seasoned Veggies
- 2 Cornish hens
- 3 tablespoons of butter softened
- 1 teaspoon of chopped fresh sage
- 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon of fresh chopped rosemary
- ½ lime cut lengthwise in two
- ⅛ onion sliced in two wedges
- 2 smashed garlic cloves
- 2 rosemary sprigs
- 2 thyme sprigs
- 4 sage leaves
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 russet potatoes, diced
- 1 large carrot, large diced
- Preheat the oven to 425F. Wash and dry the hens thoroughly. The skin should be dry so you can spread the butter evenly over the skin. Otherwise, it will not stick to the skin
- Chop one teaspoon of sage, rosemary, and thyme and mix it with the softened butter in a small bowl.
- Using your fingers or a brush, spread the herbed butter all over the skin of the hens and inside the cavity. If the skin is not dry, the butter will not stick to it. Have a paper towel on hand to dry the hen as you go if you need to.
- Once buttered, sprinkle salt and pepper all over the skin.
- Stuff the cavity with a lime wedge, a smashed garlic clove, a piece of onion, a sprig of sage, rosemary, and thyme.
- Tie the legs together with a piece of string to close the cavity, and the hens look pretty and plump.
- Transfer the hens to a baking dish and tuck the wings underneath the body to not burn when baking. This also makes them look better.
- Cut your vegetables of choice and place them inside the baking dish as well. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper also.
- Bake the hens for approximately 50 mins but check them on the 45-minute mark. If they are nicely brown and pierced between the thigh and the leg, the juices run clear. They are ready to be taken out of the oven.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Do you cover Cornish Hens when baking?
No. if you cover them, the skin will not brown properly. You want beautiful brown and crispy skin.
- How do you keep Cornish Hens from drying out?
Check them at the 45 min mark. If when poked between the thigh and breast, the liquids run clear, take them out of the oven. Do not cut them immediately after. Let them rest about 8 mins before carving, and cover them loosely with aluminum foil while they rest.