These Crispy Cornish Game Hens are genius because they are small, cook easily and quickly, and still have that element of “fancy.” They make a perfect holiday meal but also an everyday weeknight dinner. Stuff them with Sausage and glaze them with Cranberries, and you’ve got yourself something extra special to eat.
Crispy Cornish Game Hens bring out my inner fancy. I only have an “inner” fancy. “Outer” me is the sort who doesn’t own a pair of heels, or any jewelry at all, or even anything that could be considered fancy, even in the dark with only one eye open. Nothing fancy happening here.
That is, until I whip out the Crispy Cornish Game Hens. Suddenly I am imagining myself in heels hosting dinner parties by candlelight. Maybe five course dinners. Maybe desserts that require a torch, or at least imported chocolate. Maybe I should find the fancy stemware I put in a box in the garage somewhere.
This is what Cornish Game Hens do to me.
Reality Check: I cook up a few game hens, and they are every bit as fancy, with their cranberry glaze and sausage bread stuffing, as I imagine them to be. They are also so easy to make that during the cooking process, I start to remember how not very fancy I am and I make the kids set the table. They channel their inner fancy and we do have candles, but no fancy stemware. Instead of all the guests, we just invite Grandma and Grandpa over. And we skip the five courses and just eat the game hens with their stuffing and some roasted Brussels sprouts and potatoes. I don’t make dessert, but a few hours later the kids talk me into making some chocolate pudding while we watch an episode of Dr. Who.
Decidedly not fancy, but I really wouldn’t have it any other way.
Now, let’s talk hens:
One Cornish Game Hen, about 1.25 pounds (which is a common size if you’re purchasing these at an ordinary grocery store – most likely in the freezer section) will feed 2 people, as long as you’re serving it with a side dish. So if you’re looking for something for a small Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, you can cook just one or two of these in less than an hour.
Alternatively, if you are cooking for a holiday crowd, these are still a good option. Depending on your oven size, you can most likely cook up to 6 of these at a time and potentially have a main dish for up to 12 people in about an hour.
And if you’re just wanting dinner, on say a Wednesday, and spaghetti isn’t really hitting the mark, a Cornish Game Hen might be just the thing. It sounds fancy (it’s the Cornish part I think), and it even looks fancy (miniature roasted birds!), but trust me when I say they are no big deal to make. Even with the stuffing, which you could easily skip, these still were a cinch and were done in under an hour. Even on a Wednesday night.
I adapted this recipe from Dorie Greenspan. Her cookbook, Around My French Table, has to be one of my all time favorite cookbooks. They are French recipes, but Dorie Greenspan, the culinary genius, is American, which means they are delicious, elegant recipes just like you’d expect from the French, but approachable and easy, just like an American, even a not very fancy American like me, can handle. And like a not so fancy American, I was totally on board with Dorie’s sausage stuffing, but I definitely skipped the parts involving liver and white wine and traded them in for a cranberry glaze, lightly spiced with chipotle peppers. I love Dorie, but you won’t find any liver in my kitchen. Just sayin.
- 2 Cornish Game Hens, about 1.25 lbs each
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- ½ a small onion, chopped
- ½ pound ground sausage
- 1 cup day old crusty bread, cubed
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley
- Salt and Pepper
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, finely minced
- ½ cup fresh cranberries
- ¼ cup cranberry juice cocktail
- ¼ cup honey
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly butter a cast iron skillet or small roaster.
- Prepare the hens: if they are frozen, thaw them first. If they have them, remove giblets and necks and discard. Trim any excess fat/skin.
- In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat. Add the the garlic and onion and saute for one minute. Add the sausage, breaking it up with a spatula, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the sausage is completely browned. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Stir in the bread, egg, and parsley. Add a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper and stir to combine well.
- In the same skillet you are planning to roast them in, heat the remaining olive oil and butter. Place the hens in breast side down and cook for 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and turn the hens breast side up. Salt and pepper the inside of the hens, then spoon in the stuffing.
- Prepare the glaze: Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a small skillet. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the cranberries and next four ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes, or until cranberries pop and mixture become syrupy.
- Brush hens with half of the glaze and place in the oven. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a thermometer registers 165 F and the juices in the fattest part of the breast run clear.
- Serve with the remaining cranberry sauce drizzled over the meat and stuffing.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American readers. And to all of my blog readers, this holiday season, I am so grateful for you. Thank you for coming here, for subscribing, and commenting, and supporting me in my efforts to share my recipes and support my family as a single mother. I am so blessed. Thank you!