Saturday, April 27, 2013

Make-ahead herb and lemon marinated Cornish hens

For years MJ's husband (and Victoria's father) has enjoyed bringing home friends, colleagues and clients for dinner. Sometimes unexpectedly. Sometimes when deadlines are tight.  So it is not only the Boy Scouts who need to be prepared.

 This recipe takes a bit of advance prep, but it saves time on the night and it has been a big hit. Now that we've experimented on two unsuspecting batches of dinner guests, it’s joined the ranks of our favorites. There will always be Cornish hens in the freezer from this point on. Depending on your guests’ appetites, each Cornish hen serves one person or two.  Be prepared for one hen per person, but leftovers are great, if there are any.

The prep time for this is very quick. It only takes a few minutes to open the hens, mix the marinate and brown them. After that the hens do all the work.

You can easily adjust this recipe for two, four or whatever number of hens.   

6 Cornish hens, flattened with backbones removed . Score the breastbone with a sharp knife on the INSIDE of the hen – makes it easier to flatten – but don’t cut all the way through.
Olive oil  for browning hens


1 cup of EVOO (don’t faint)
¾ cup white wine
Juice of two  large lemons
6 cloves of garlic, slivered
1 large shallot, finely chopped
4 sprigs fresh thyme (you could use dried, but this is really worth it)
4 sprigs fresh rosemary 
½ tsp dried chili flakes – I use mild New Mexican - but whatever you like
S & P to suit yourself


Lay hens skin-side down in single layer in a glass dish. Mix marinade ingredients and pour over hens.  Marinate overnight if you can, or even twenty-four hours.  But even if you have only a half hour to marinate, they are still excellent.

After marinating, brown the hens, one at a time, in a large skillet.

Transfer to a large baking dish (or two).  At this point, you can refrigerate covered for up to a day. Pour some of the remaining marinade around hens.

Preheat oven to 350.  Bake for about an hour.

It's very nice served on a platter with rice.

Last weekend we served it with lots of vegetables because that suited everyone.  MJ shared the spinach casserole recipe last year on MLK (click here to see that recipe) and we will be posting the Marinated Mushrooms in May.

We also liked this because, except for the baking dish (which could be your serving dish) we had no last minute dishes.

This spring we are still celebrating the arrival of The Christie Curse, our first book collector mystery. We're eagerly waiting for the cover of The Sayers Swindle, book two in the series, and can't wait to show you when it arrives. Maybe we should make ourselves this for dinner again. Hmmm.

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  1. That must look delish to your guests! Do you freeze them in the marinade?

    1. Thanks, Lucy. Great idea. I have been buying them frozen to have on hand, so haven't wanted to refresh them. But if I find them fresh, I will do that. We freeze chicken thighs in marinade for quick summer meals and love the results.

  2. Yum! Love those little critters--they're always tender, and they cook quickly. They look so nicely browned!

    Oh, for the days when we lived in California and bought fresh-pressed olive oil from the grove in Napa by the gallon.

    1. Fresh olive oil! We have access to a terrific variety here, but fresh would be out of this world (or this area anyway).

      Thanks, Sheila!

  3. Cornish hens make such a lovely dinner--great for the grill, too, and the weather is finally cooperating here in NYC! Thanks for the tasty recipe AND the reminder on your spinach casserole. (I'll be making that, too.) Have a delicious weekend, Victoria (and MJ)!

    1. I've never grilled them, but we have a new charcoal grill with good temperature control, so I'll try that, Cleo.

      Hope your weekend is delicious too, Cleo!

  4. Sounds good. I usually cut Cornish hens in half, put BBQ sauce on them and bake.

    1. I haven't tried them with BBQ sauce, Sandy. But there's one lonely one left in my freezer, so there's a dinner idea for tomorrow.


  5. Aren't these beautiful! Love them. So pretty for a special night's dinner. Or just for a weekend dinner. Love it.

    Daryl / Avery

    1. Thank, Avery/Daryl! And of course, gluten-free.