I think about Cornish Game Hens a lot. And how I was first introduced to theses magic wonders by my culinary inspirations Shelia Lukens and Julee Rosso, of Silver Palate fame. I admit to being hesitant at first. They sounded exotic, expensive. And what if, heaven forbid, they were “gamey”? Thankfully none of those are true.
Cornish hens are merely a hybrid chicken. They are small, with average weight of about 1 1/2 – 2 pounds. Contrary to the name, they are not game birds and in fact are readily available at most grocery store chains (many times in the freezer section). They cook quickly and half a hen is a perfect serving for one, with both white and dark meat. Hard to do that with a regular chicken, unless you have a humongous appetite!
This is true grown-up jam, crafted in England, with imported organic Seville oranges, pure whiskey and no refined sugar. The flavors are intense with just right blend of bitterness from the oranges, sweetness from molasses and a touch of kick from whiskey and a dash of lemon juice. Trust me, if I were a jam making kind of person, this is what I would be making.
Of course this spread would be wicked good on a toasted English muffin with a cup of tea. But then you have the culinary possibilities, which are endless. Any recipe calling for a glaze, whether it be ham or turkey or roast chicken, will be made infinitely better with this jam. My beloved cornish hen…of course, sheer perfection.
I am also imagining an appetizer made of toasted rye, aged English cheddar, and a little dab of this spread on top. Can you imagine this with a Porter or Stout on a cold winter’s eve?
Finally, a note about two kitchen essentials, that will make your culinary endeavors a whole lot better with this recipe and countless others. A great pair of kitchen shears is a must have and makes jobs like halving the hens a total breeze. My all time favorite shears are Pampered Chef’s Professional Shears:
Secondly, if you don’t have a roll of Reynolds Wrap® Non-Stick Foil in your cabinet, you’re missing out on a life changing product. No more dealing with messy non-stick spray on sheet pans. Makes clean up almost non-existent!
A final note that you MAY recognize the sweet potatoes in the main photo? They’re my most awesome Roasted Spiced Sweet Potatoes, which are a perfect accompaniment to the glazed Cornish hen.
Roast Cornish Game Hens with Seville Orange and Whiskey Glaze
2 whole Cornish Game Hens
2 lemons, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 450° and place rack in upper third of the oven.
Rinse each hen thoroughly with cold running water and pat dry. Place on a cutting board, breast side down. Using a sharp knife or kitchen shears, cut along each side of the backbone. Remove backbone and discard. Then split the hen in half by cutting down the middle of the breast bone. Repeat with the second hen. Season both sides with Kosher salt and pepper.
Lay a sheet of Reynolds Wrap® non-stick foil onto a heavy duty sheet pan (or alternatively, spray with non-stick spray). Arrange lemon slices on the pan so they form 4 separate rectangles. Place one Cornish hen half, skin side up on each rectangle, like this:
Roast for 15 minutes. While hens are roasting, bring marmalade to a simmer on the stove over very low heat to form a glaze and season with just a pinch of salt and pepper. After 15 minutes, brush hens with a bit of the glaze and continue roasting for about 15 -20 additional minutes, brushing two more times with the glaze. Serve immediately.