{the husband files} Oven-Roasted Cornish Game Hens

A few weeks before our baby was born, my husband said he was making dinner for me and that I could just relax on the couch until it was ready. You didn’t have to tell me twice! But then he came in the living room a few minutes later and asked for my camera. I couldn’t figure out what he was up to…until he started asking how he should “place” things to make them look “pretty.” I got up from my spot on the couch to see what was going on, and then it all clicked into place: he was working on a little blog project! Lucky for me, I got to go back to the couch and then eat what he created, and lucky for you, now you can make it, too!

I’ve always loved cooking. Although it wasn’t always healthy (I still maintain that Velveeta Shells and Cheese with hotdogs and green chile is the perfect meal), I’ve been cooking most of my own meals since college. I also like trying new things, but sometimes it’s hard to convince Jess that they’ll be good meals. Over the last 3+ years of idyllic marriage I’ve gotten her to eat mussels, oysters, clams, squid, salmon, and sometimes even BBQ, one of the last holdouts has been cooking a full chicken. It’s not that she didn’t want to eat the chicken, it’s that she didn’t want to go through the hassle of dealing with a full bird—we do that on Thanksgiving each year and once a year was more than enough for her. A few weeks ago, though, I made it one step closer by cooking her some “Rocking Cornish Game Hens.”

The cool thing about these game hens are that they’re pretty small—about 4 lbs each, which means that every person gets their own little hen. We combined the hen with roasting with our veggies and it turned out really great!

Oven-Roasted Cornish Game Hens
1. Manhattan, because the red wine wasn’t open yet
2. Wine: Red, for dinner and white for deglazing
3. One can authentic Italian pearl onions*

4. Two Rock Cornish Game Hens, thawed

5. Two sprigs rosemary

 6. Garlic
7. lemon
8. 1 lb French Green Beans
9. a really sharp knife
10. fresh pepper
11. 2-4 Tbs. Olive Oil
12. salt
13. oregano


Crank the hotbox up to 450 degrees. Start by drying off the hens with some paper towels, and then liberally coat the skin with a mixture of olive oil, salt, pepper, and a little oregano. In the cavity, cram in a couple lemon wedges (I microwave them first to help release their juices), a few garlic cloves, and a sprig of rosemary.

Make a foil “tent” and use it to loosely cover the hens, this will help get the skin nice and crispy without it burning.

Now it’s oven time! Place the hens on a roasting rack (we used our oven-safe cooling rack) and put a casserole dish underneath to catch the fat delicious drippings. I recommend using an over-sized pan, so it catches everything. Also put down a layer of foil, or a large cookie sheet under the casserole dish. Fun chicken fat fact: it smokes when heated. A lot. So when you open the stove, expect a fair amount of smoke. If you have a fan or a vent, I suggest using it.

Prep veggies. We used French green beans, pearl onions, and about 10 garlic cloves (we like garlic). Simply trim the ends off the green beans, make sure everything is clean.

Smokey time. After the hens have roasted for about 20-25 minutes**, reduce the heat to 375, remove the foil and the casserole dish (hence why you need that extra foil underneath), drain all but a tablespoon (ish) of the fat from the casserole dish, and add in white wine. The goal here is to deglaze the pan and get all of those burnt nibbly-bits to release, which is easily done with a wooden spoon. After that, add in your veggies and give them a quick toss. Return it to the oven.

Done! Cook the hens until they reach an internal temperature of 165-degrees in the thigh*** (about 20-30 minutes more), and remove them from the oven. Let them rest for about 10 minutes before cutting. Leave your veggies in the oven till they hit their done mark.

Carve. You have two options at this point: either pre-carve your hens, or let each person do it at their seat. I usually opt for the first option, because I’m nice husband.

Notes: Overall we were both really happy with this meal, I like cooking the veggies in the oven underneath the hens, but that does mean a good portion of the fat will end up in your veggies. The original recipe we used made a sauce out of the drippings after the fact, definitely a healthier option.

* That’s what the can said. I trust Italian cans.
** Our oven here in Italy, while tiny, heats rather amazingly. You are shooting to have your birds about half-way done at this point.
*** We go by temperatures – the bird doesn’t come out till it hits that magical non-bacteria infested mark. The USDA suggests you get your bird up to 165, we leave the hens in the oven till they hit that mark, then let carryover heat finish it up. As long as the juices are running clear, I’m happy.


  1. Wow – that sounds so good! My mom used to make Cornish Hens with flowering plum sauce (a staple of my childhood), but I've never been brave enough to do it myself. And kudos for the garlic overload – I'm convinced it balances out if you both eat it, right?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.