There’s good reason that a roast chicken is a dinner party staple. It’s economic, hearty, relatively easy to pull off, and most importantly, an impressive and delicious dish to bring to a table of hungry friends or family members. But, as much as we do love chicken, for all its versatility and unfussiness, it can become a bit redundant.
This is where Cornish Game Hens are excellent pinch hitters, bringing along with them the elegance of a bird-per-person presentation. This seasonal interpretation from wine expert Marc Supsic takes the wee hens, stuffs them with garlic and fresh herbs, then dresses them with citrus zest. Finally, they’re roasted in a bath of white wine and sauced with simple simmered pan gravy. The result is fragrant and succulent meat, which each guest can carve at their own place setting.
NOTE: This recipe will yield half Lemon Rosemary hens, the other half, Orange Thyme.
Citrus Herb Roasted Cornish Game Hens
Recipe by Marc Supsic
Inspired by a recipe from Food and Wine
Total Cooking Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Active Cooking Time: 45-60 minutes
- 6 Guinea Hens, about 1.5 – 2 pounds each
- 2 cups dry white wine (Pinot Grigio or unoaked Chardonnay)
- 2 small oranges
- 2 lemons
- 6 stalks fresh thyme
- 6 stalks fresh rosemary
- 10 cloves of garlic, whole (Tip: the fastest way to peel garlic is to place the bulb/cloves into a mason jar and shake vigorously. The skins will come right off!)
- Olive Oil
- Salt & Pepper
6 pieces of cooking twine, about 10 inches in length each
Using a grater, zest both of the lemons and both of the oranges. Do not mix the two. Save the lemons and the oranges for later.
Peel 10 cloves of garlic. Cut 1 orange and 1 lemon into quarters.
Set your oven to 400F. You’ll prep the hens while it preheats.
Roll out a long piece of Saran Wrap and place it on your counter top. This will be your work space. Rinse and pat dry each hen, place on the plastic. Rub the hens with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
In a skillet or pan, heat 3 Tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. Brown each hen on both sides, roughly 2 minutes each side. When you’re finished browning the hens, pour any excess oil/fat from the skillet and add 1 cup of white wine to the pan to deglaze. Use a spatula or spoon to scrape the crumbles from the bottom. Do this for about 1 minute to reduce the wine. Remove from the burner.
Stuff three hens with a clove of garlic, one lemon wedge and one sprig of rosemary, the other three with garlic, orange and thyme. Tie the legs shut with the twine, tuck the wings underneath and place all six in a deep baking pan or turkey pan. Sprinkle each hen with its corresponding zest flavor.
Add the reduced wine to the pan, do not pour over the hens (you’ll wash off the zest!). Add the remaining garlic cloves to the pan and if you want, additional wedges of citrus.
Bake the hens in the oven for 45 – 60 minutes, basting them with a spoon every 15 minutes. At 45 minutes, remove the hens and using a thermometer, check between the thigh and the body to see if the internal temperature is 160F. If not, place back in the oven for another ten minutes.
When hens reach 160F, remove them from the pan and place on foil. Flip them over on the breast and cover with foil, letting them rest for ten minutes.
On the stovetop, place your baking pan/turkey pan with the juices in it over the burner. Heat to medium heat. Slowly add in the remaining cup of wine, stirring and deglazing as the mixture reduces. This is your gravy.
Plate the hens, garnishing with the remaining herb sprig. Spoon the gravy over top and serve.