Garlic and Rosemary Cornish Game Hens

There is something about roasting chickens and Sundays that seem to go hand in hand. Growing up, it was always a big, fat hen. We didn’t do Game Hens. Maybe because there were so many of us, it made more sense to roast a big, fat chicken for Sunday Dinner rather than a small game hen. When asked, Dad said he did not particularly like game hens. He thought the meat of the game hens was too dry.

live game henOne thing I have always done with game hens is to let them sit for several hours in a pot of cold water with some salt and a little liquid smoke or mesquite seasoning. It really did not matter how the recipe said to “roast” the hens, a bath in seasoned water has always come first. I don’t know if this truly prevents the meat from becoming too dry, it’s just what I do. Always have. So as I sat down to write this post, I decided to surf the web – see what others have to say on the subject. The answer? Some do, and swear it makes the meat more juice, others don’t and swear brining  alters the natural flavor of the hens. No definitive answer. (By the way, you know how google tries to “guess” what it is you are searching for? I typed “Do game hens . . .” and what popped up was “lay eggs” – a subject I had never really thought about before. Turns out they do, but they aren’t very good at it).

You will notice that the recipe that follows calls for 4 hens. In our house, we generally roast two. Hubby has his fill of dark meat from two birds, with Kiddo and I find that the breast of one hen is sufficient for us to be satisfied. After all, it’s not as though we aren’t having more – there’s always a potato or rice dish and a vegetable.

Tonight is no exception. Our yummy sides consist of Garlic Mashed Potatoes with a Twist and Browned-Butter and Brown Sugar Glazed Carrots with a Kiss of Kahlua.

Here’s to Sundays and Sunday Suppers!

Garlic and Rosemary Cornish Game Hens
4 (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
24 garlic cloves, peeled
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup chicken broth
Additional rosemary sprigs (for garnish)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. 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. Roast hens in hot oven 25 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. 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.

If birds are not cooked through, add about 1/2 cup more chicken broth, cover and continue to cook 15  minutes longer.

Lift hens to transfer to a serving 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.

Cut hens in half lengthwise. Arrange on plates. Spoon sauce and garlic around hens. Garnish with additional rosemary sprigs and serve.

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