Roasted Stuffed Cornish Game Hens

Adapted from Cook's Illustrated,  Published September 1, 1997

Makes 2 servings



For the couscous stuffing:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small onion , minced (1/2 cup)
  • 2 medium cloves garlic , minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 cup plain couscous
  • 1-1/3 cups chicken stock or low-sodium canned chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup dried apricots (8 to 9 whole), chopped fine
  • 3 tablespoons dried currants
  • 1/4 cup shelled pistachios , toasted and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice from 1 small lemon
  • Salt and ground black pepper

For the cornish game hens:

  • 3/4 cups kosher salt or 1/3 cup table salt
  • 2 Cornish game hens (each less than 1-1/2 pounds if possible) trimmed of extra fat, giblets removed, rinsed well
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons dry vermouth or white wine


Step 1: To brine the cornish game hens: 1. Dissolve salt in 6 cups cold water in small clean bucket or large bowl. Add hens breast side down; refrigerate 1 hour. 
Step 2: To make the couscous stuffing: Heat butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan. 
Step 3: Add onions, garlic, cinnamon, ginger, and turmeric; sauté until onions soften, 3 to 4 minutes. 
Step 4: Add couscous; stir until well coated, 1 to 2 minutes. 
Step 5: Add chicken stock, bring to simmer, remove from heat, cover, and let stand until couscous has fully rehydrated, about 5 minutes. 
Step 6: Fluff couscous with fork; stir in dried fruit, nuts, parsley, and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to microwave-safe bowl; set aside.
Step 7: Remove hens from salt water, rinse thoroughly, pat dry, and prick skin all over breast and legs with point of a paring knife.
Step 8: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees.
Step 9: Whisk balsamic vinegar and oil in small bowl; set aside. 
Step 10: Spoon 1/2 cup hot stuffing into cavity of each hen; tie its legs together with 6-inch piece of kitchen twine. Leaving as much space as possible between each bird, arrange them breast side down and wings facing out, on wire rack, set over roasting or jelly-roll pan. 
Step 11:  Roast until backs are golden brown, about 25 minutes. Remove pan from oven, brush bird backs with vinegar and oil glaze (re-blending before each bird), turn hens breast side up and wings facing out, and brush breast and leg area with additional glaze. 
Step 12: Return pan to oven, add 1/2 cup water, roast until meat thermometer inserted into the stuffed cavity registers about 150 degrees, about 15 to 20 minutes longer. 
Step 13: Remove pan from oven again, brush birds with re-blended glaze, return pan to oven, add another 1/4 cup water to pan and increase oven temperature to 450 degrees. Roast until birds are spotty brown and cavity registers 160 degrees, 5 to 10 minutes longer, depending on bird size. Remove birds from oven, brush with remaining glaze, and rest for 10 minutes.
Step 14: Meanwhile, pour hen “jus” from roasting pan into small saucepan, spoon off excess fat, add vermouth or wine, and simmer over medium-high heat until flavors blend, 2 to 3 minutes. Drizzle about 1/4 cup sauce over each hen and serve, passing remaining sauce separately.

Add new comment

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.