If you’re like me you thought that Cornish Game Hens originated somewhere in England around the 17th century. Not true! In reality the name “Cornish Game Hens” is completely misleading and the succulent birds are actually as American as apple pie, baseball, and country music. They’re also not ‘game’ birds or even hens as they can be either male or female. So basically everything about the name is a lie.
Here’s the real story (or what Wikipedia tells me anyway.) Two guys in Connecticut developed the birds in the mid-1950s. They began cross-breeding Cornish game cocks with various chickens and game birds, including a White Plymouth Rock Hen and a Malayan fighting cock, to develop the Rock Cornish game hen, a tasty little single (or double in our case) serving bird. This was our first time preparing Cornish Game Hens but if you’ve ever roasted a chicken this will be a piece of cake…the same methods are followed but the hens roast for less time and the entire process should only take a little over an hour. We used a recipe that highlights winter herbs, the brightness of lemon and garlic…LOTS of garlic. If you’re looking for a special recipe to prepare in order to ring in the new year try this!
We picked up this wine when we visited Chrysalis Vineyards back on the fourth of July. We’ve been saving it for a special pairing and this was perfect! This wine is fermented in both oak AND stainless steel barrels so it didn’t have the overwhelming oakiness that I dislike in more oaky Chardonnays….this was a great and complex balance! It had the crisp fruitiness to complement the lemon in our main dish but also the oaky mellowness to harmonize with the rosemary, garlic and rich flavors in the meat itself. Success!
3 Stars Brewing Company is less than a mile from where we live so we recently visited to see what they were all about and to try some of their beers. The Peppercorn Saison was by far our favorite beer that they had (I’m a sucker for a good saison) but unfortunately they didn’t have any that we could pick up on the spot. Imagine my surprise as I was looking for a good saison to pair with our cornish game hens when I spotted the Peppercorn Saison sitting on the shelf! Like many saisons, this beer has a fruity nose and taste with spices and fresh grass with a crisp, slightly bitter, and dry finish that cleanses the palate. Saison’s are perfect beer to pair with simple grilled poultry or fish or even rich dishes like stews and roasts.
Cornish Game Hens with Garlic, Lemon and Rosemary
Modified from this recipe.
Serves 4 or 2 very hungry people
2 1 1/4- to 1 1/2-pound Cornish game hens, giblets removed
1 lemon, cut into 4 wedges
4 large fresh rosemary sprigs
3 tablespoons olive oil
12 garlic cloves, peeled
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup canned low-salt chicken broth
Additional rosemary sprigs (for garnish)
1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Pat hens dry with paper towels. Season cavities lightly with salt and pepper. Place 1 lemon wedge and 1 rosemary sprig in cavity of each hen. Rub hens with 1 tablespoon oil. Season outside of hens lightly with salt and pepper. Arrange in heavy large roasting pan. Scatter garlic around hens.
2. Roast hens 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Pour wine, broth and remaining 2 tablespoons oil over hens. Continue roasting until hens are golden brown and juices run clear when thigh is pierced at thickest part, basting every 10 minutes with pan juices, about 25 minutes longer.
3. Transfer hens to platter, pouring any juices from cavity into roasting pan. Tent hens with foil to keep warm. Transfer pan juices and garlic to heavy medium saucepan. Boil until reduced to sauce consistency, about 6 minutes.
4. Cut hens in half lengthwise. Arrange on plates. Spoon sauce and garlic around hens. Garnish with additional rosemary sprigs and serve.