Roasted Cornish Hens with Garlic Butter Sauce
Why I Love This Recipe
Absolutely delicious and moist, best cornish game hens I've had in my life!
Ingredients You'll Need
Cornish game hens– The star of the show, these come anywhere from 1-2 1/2 pounds each.
Extra virgin olive oil– Any oil with a high smoke point will work, but I prefer olive oil because the flavor profile doesn’t change when heated and it infuses well with the fresh herbs.
Fresh lemon zest– Zest provides a true and clean lemon flavor without the pucker.
Fresh herbs- This one is up to you! I used equal amounts of rosemary, thyme and flat parsley (Italian parsley), but feel free to use any flavor combo you want of one or more herbs. Tarragon is another interesting flavor choice, as is marjoram or even mint. Parsley will be used in the butter as well, but can be omitted or swapped with another fresh herb. If using dried herbs, use 1-2 teaspoons of Italian seasoning.
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper– Coarse kosher enhances flavors and helps to balance and make crispy skin. If you want to dial down the pepper, use white pepper.
Unsalted Butter- There are two additions of salt in this recipe, so I opt for unsalted butter. If you use salted, please omit salt from the butter sauce. For this I clarify the butter first. It is an extra step, but gives the blend a clean, buttery flavor and prevents it from burning under higher temps. Ghee can also be purchased and used, or regular old butter too.
Fresh Garlic Cloves- Please do not use the jarred stuff which often tastes sweet instead of garlicky.
Hot Sauce– My secret ingredient! Use just a small does and it gives these birds a zesty flavor without being spicy.
Charred Lemons– These are optionals, but so pretty when plated. Did you know that heating citrus deepens the rich flavor and aroma and also helps to easily extract the maximum amount of juice? Plain lemon wedges also work.
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Starting at a super hot temp will give the birds a burst of heat to start the browning process and help it be at the standing roasting temperature of 400°F without losing degrees from opening the oven door.
Line a rimmed baking sheet or shallow roasting pan with aluminum foil for easy clean up. There will be natural juices and run off form the basting sauces, so you need something that will keep the liquids in, but a pan too high-sided can cause the meat to steam and not get a golden brown exterior.
Remove hens from packaging, rinse with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. The olive oil will not stick to wet birds. Tie back the legs together using butcher’s twine and tuck the wings behind themselves, much like preparing a roaster chicken. Place hens in the baking vessel.
Stir together the olive oil, lemon zest, fresh herbs, salt and pepper in a small bowl and then baste it all over the outside of the hens. Reduce the oven temp and roast with the breast side up for 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the butter sauce, which is basically my garlic butter sauce spiked with hot sauce, by melting the butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave and whisking in the garlic, parsley, hot sauce, salt and pepper. The butter may solidify while sitting and require to be reheated when you baste. This step can be done ahead of time regardless of if you are using clarified butter or regular butter.
At 40 minutes, lower the oven temperature to 350°F so it is at the smoke point of the butter. Remove the hens and baste with well on just the top side with half of the butter (and maybe a little in the cavity for good measure). Return to the oven and bake for another 10 minutes. Baste again and continue to bake for another 10 minutes. Depending on the size of the birds, you might have a little butter leftover, that is fine, just discard it.
Check the internal temperature and if it reads between 155-160°F, it is time to remove them. If not, keep them in the oven until they reach the desired temperature which ranges depending on size.
Remove, gently tent with aluminum foil and then rest for 10 minutes before serving. Char the lemons by setting them over an open flame on a gas or propane stove, on the grill or carefully with a butane torch.
Garnish with thyme sprigs or sprigs of fresh rosemary.
Questions, Comments & Reviews
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