Holidays beg to be marked by special food and Valentine’s Day is no different. There are the gold standards of chocolate, champagne, anything heart shaped, pink or red. I’ve certainly shared my fair share of all of those in the past few weeks however when thinking about a special dish to share today my mind went back to my childhood when my mother would occasionally prepare Cornish Game Hens. They are miniature fowl, that when full grown is a size a bit larger than a soft ball making them a perfect ‘personal size’ bird. It always seemed so special to be served my own bird in such a dainty size. They taste like chicken and really do elevate a meal from the ordinary.
Cornish Game Hens are incredibly easy to prepare and take less than an hour to roast. Most often they are kept frozen at the grocery store or local butcher so fold into your planning time for full thawing (overnight is fine) before your preparation. I chose to glaze my Golden Plum Balsamic Cornish Game Hens during roasting to make the flavors that much more special. You can stuff them as you would a turkey though investigate cooking time if cooking them stuffed. They are incredibly versatile, not a fussy dish to prepare and sadly overlooked as a protein option.
Every Valentine’s morning when I was a child I would come to the breakfast table to find a red foil box of chocolates. Even though I knew it would be there I still was completely surprised. Valentine’s Day should be a day full of unexpected whimsy in my book. I so would love to make your day but a box of heart candy is not what I had in mind. Instead a lucky reader will win a duplicate of some of the key supplies I used to make this lovely Cornish Game Hen dish from Le Creuset and some other newly discovered fun brands!
Golden Plum Balsamic Glazed Cornish Game Hens
- 4 Cornish Game Hens , thawed and at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon Kosher Salt
- 1 tablespoon ground Black Pepper
- 2 Meyer Lemons , cut into quarters
- 24 sprigs of fresh Thyme
- 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
- 1 large Shallot , peeled and diced
- ½ teaspoon Meyer Lemon Zest
- ½ cup Plum Preserves
- ¼ cup Balsamic Vinegar
- 3 tablespoons glazing liquid wine, chicken broth, water (or I used some open pink champagne!)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- In a heavy small saucepan on over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add shallot and sauté until shallot is transparent.
- Add lemon zest, plum preserves and balsamic vinegar. Stir or whisk to combine and allow to simmer on low for 10 minutes until thickened (stirring periodically). Allow glaze to cool.
- Allow glaze to cool.
- While glaze is cooling, rinse hens and allow to drain with cavity facing down for 10 minutes. Pat dry inside and out with paper towels.
- Liberally rub the salt and pepper inside and outside of the hens.
- Stuff each hen with 2 quarters of Meyer lemon and 6 sprigs of thyme (note: I found bending the thyme in half and stuffing that into the hen’s cavity before the lemons worked well). Truss the legs in a crossed position, not too tight.
- With a cooking/basting brush, brush hens on all sides with the glaze.
- Place breast side up in a roasting pan or casserole. Wrap wing tips with a small piece of foil to avoid blackening if preferred. Place in warmed oven.
- Set a timer for 50 minutes. Baste at 20 minutes with remaining glaze.
- Check hens at 30 minutes. If having started to brown cover pan loosely with foil (the sugar in the glaze will cause the hens to blacken if left uncovered).
- Baste finally at 40 minutes. Remove and check temperature at 50 minutes (hens should register 165 degrees on a meat thermometer placed between the thigh and breast).
- Allow to sit 10 minutes before serving.