Roasted Cornish Hens with Brussels Sprout Panzanella

updated Nov 17, 2020
Valentine's Day
Cornish Hen Recipe

Here's how to buy, prepare, roast, and serve Cornish hens at home — perfect for a family date night in.

Serves4

Prep30 minutes

Cook45 minutes

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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

I’m guessing you don’t make Cornish hens often, but here’s why that should change. These pleasantly plump poultry roast in less time than a whole chicken, but feel infinitely more fancy. Whether you’re looking for a festive main for your small Thanksgiving dinner, or want to have a date night in (including the kids), Cornish hens are just the thing.

This recipe for easy roasted hens includes a hearty vegetable panzanella (with a maple-mustard dressing) that cooks alongside the hens — it’s basically turkey and stuffing, with a much easier twist!

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

How to Roast Cornish Hens

Cornish hens are sold at most grocery stores, although you’ll often find them in the freezer rather than the poultry case. This roasting method works best for Cornish hens between 1 and 1 1/2 pounds. Make sure your hens are fully thawed before you begin prepping them for roasting.

Similar to chicken or turkey, your biggest concern when roasting hens is ending up with dry breast meat. To combat this, you’ll season the hens with an herb butter that you’ll rub between the skin and the breast meat, then roast them on their sides rather than breast-side up. Roasting Cornish hens on a wire rack set inside a baking sheet also helps elevate the birds so that the thighs cook as quickly as the breasts. Cornish hens are done when they reach an internal temperature of 165°F in the thickest part of the thigh and their juices run clear. This will take about an hour depending on the hen’s size.

Halving the hens for serving makes them easier to eat. Let them rest for five minutes, then use a sturdy pair of kitchen shears to remove the back bones and split the breast bones for serving.

Cornish Hen Recipe

Here's how to buy, prepare, roast, and serve Cornish hens at home — perfect for a family date night in.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 45 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons

    unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • 4 cloves

    garlic, minced

  • 1 tablespoon

    chopped fresh rosemary leaves

  • 1 tablespoon

    chopped fresh thyme leaves

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided

  • 4

    cornish hens (1 to 1 1/2 pounds each), thawed if frozen

  • 1 pound

    petite Yukon gold potatoes (1-inch in diameter) or fingerling potatoes, halved

  • 1 pound

    Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

  • 3 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 2 cups

    stale bread cubes (about 4 ounces or 1/2 of a round artisan loaf)

  • 2 cups

    seedless red grapes, halved (about 6 ounces)

For the maple mustard dressing: (optional)

  • 1/4 cup

    olive oil

  • 3 tablespoons

    maple syrup

  • 2 tablespoons

    Dijon mustard

  • 1 teaspoon

    apple cider vinegar

  • Kosher salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven, remove any racks above it, and heat to 400°F.

  2. Place the butter, garlic, rosemary, thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt in a small bowl and mash together with a fork.

  3. Unwrap the hens and pat dry with paper towels. Use a small spoon to loosen the skin over the breasts. Smear the herb butter between the breast meat and the skin. Season the hens inside and out with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt.

  4. Place the potatoes and Brussels sprouts on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with the oil, season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and toss to combine. Add the bread cubes over the vegetables and spread into an even layer.

  5. Fit a wire rack over the vegetables and bread. Place the hens on the rack, positioning them on their sides rather than breast-side up. We’ll flip them about halfway through cooking, which helps them stay moist. Roast the hens on their sides for 25 minutes.

  6. Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Lift the cooling rack with the birds and give the vegetables and bread a toss. Return the rack over the vegetables and use tongs to flip the birds over to finish roasting. Roast until they reach an internal temperature of 165°F in the thickest part of the thigh and their juices run clear, about 30 minutes more.

  7. Combine the olive oil, mustard, maple syrup, and vinegar in small jar. Seal and shake to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

  8. When the hens are cooked through, transfer them to a clean cutting board to rest for 5 minutes before carving. Add the grapes to the veggies and bread, drizzle with 1/2 of the dressing, and toss to combine.

  9. Use kitchen shears to cut each hen in half down the breast bone and along the backbone for easier serving. Serve the hens with the bread salad and additional dressing if desired.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.