Friday, February 18, 2011

My cornish hen experience - Valentine's Day Dinining

Apologies for this post being a bit delayed...but you know how it goes. There aren't enough hours in the day lately - not that I'm complaining! 

Here's the thing... I love cooking a big meal. I love planning it for days  (or  even more). But as you know, cooking a big meal is typically reserved for special occasions, or in my case, Sundays. There's barely time to get food on the table, let alone make a big fancy meal every night. A gal can dream though ....

So for Valentine's Day, why would I fight the crowds and pay a gazillion dollars to go out to dinner when I love to cook a big meal...don't get me wrong, I love going out to eat. But I love cooking more. 
 Soooo.....Happy Valentine's Day to ME! 

My inspiration for this years dinner came from one of my favorites...Giada...oh Giada, to trade places with you for a day. I would love to have your gorgeous house in Cali, Italian movie star family legacy and Cordon Bleu chef training. But I digress. 

On one of my favorite days in recent memory, I watched the food network for 5 hours straight one Saturday while cleaning the house and baking. It was supremely excellent. When Giada comes on, I stop what I am doing and sit on the couch, hanging on her every word. Well, this time she was making cornish hens for a "perfect date night with Todd." (She is a little cheesy, I'll give you I will insert a "barf" here.)
Cornish hens, I think? This seems challenging and fancy. I will make these for Valentine's Day! And so I did :)

First step: Google "cornish hen" - A cornish game a hybrid chicken sold whole. Despite the name, it is not a game bird, but actually a type of domestic chicken. Though the bird is called a "hen," it can be either male or female.

So what your telling me is that a cornish hen is a fancy name for a little chicken? Okay... I can handle this.  Stu was a little concerned, but as usual, I proved to be right and the meal was delicious.

Let's proceed. 

Roasted Citrus-Herb Game Hen 

Recipe courtesy of Giada de Laurentiis


  • 2 (1 1/2 to 2-pound) Cornish game hens
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest, from 2 medium oranges
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest, from about 3 lemons
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons Marsala wine or dry sherry
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries or currants
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature


Place an oven rack in the lower 1/3 of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Rinse the game hens and pat dry with paper towels. In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, shallots, orange zest, lemon zest, thyme, mint, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Rub 2 tablespoons of the zest mixture over the skins of the game hens. Place the remainder of the zest mixture under the skin and into the cavities of the hens. Using kitchen twine, truss the legs together. Place the hens in a shallow 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Add the chicken stock, Marsala wine, lemon juice, orange juice, and cranberries. Roast for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the leg juices run clear. Remove the game hens and set aside. Place the flour in a small saucepan. Whisk in the pan juices. Bring the juices to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes until slightly thickened. Whisk in the butter and season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
To serve, remove the kitchen twine and place the hens on 2 serving plates. Drizzle with the citrus-herb sauce.
Cook's Note: Reserve 1/4 cup of the citrus-herb sauce for the Crouton Salad.

Let's get started:

Cornish Hens - I used to see them in the fresh meat section, but now they are only sold frozen. So I thawed them out overnight in the fridge. Note how CHEAP they are! $7.74 for 2 small chickens? Yes please. 

I chopped and zested my little heart away to create this delicious citrusy/fresh herb rub that smelled divine....I'm sure Giada just goes to the backyard to pick the oranges and lemons off her citrus trees. Whatev, I get them from the store. That's cool too. 

Rub this goodness all over your little chickens...inside, under the skin, everywhere to get that delicious flavor! NOTE: I may have cooked the chickens upside down... what do you think? Did I do it the wrong way? It turned out fine, so maybe it doesn't matter...

The next part is crucial to the dish's success....the juice. You see, the recipe has this amazing sauce that goes along with it. It's so excellent that I would make the sauce separately just to use for other dishes. It consists of chicken stock, marsala wine, orange and lemon juice and dried cranberries. Easy, right? The chickens roast in this juice, like so...

... for about 35 minutes at 425 it's not a long process to get it looking like this:

Once the chickens are cooked, take the juice and put it in a saucepan with some flour. Bring it to a boil and then let it simmer for about 10  minutes until it thickens up. Add butter and you have a seriously amazing sauce. It's lemony and delicious. 

One of my favorite parts of a meal are the sides. I went with the side Giada made for this meal, the Crouton Salad. I want to note that I always thought that making your own croutons was stupid because you can just buy them at the store and does it really make that much of a difference? UMMMM it totally does. Make your own croutons - totally worth the small effort!

Let the croutons cool and add them to arugula. Giada also used toasted pine nuts, but I didn't. Reserve 1/4 of the sauce made with the hens and drizzle it over the crouton salad. OMG so good...the croutons absorb the delicious sauce and it goes superbly with the peppery arugula. I'm in love. 

Finally, I made some simple roasted potatoes to go along with the meal. No, the picture below is NOT of chickpeas! It's of Pee-Wee Dutch Yellow cute! I mixed olive oil, minced garlic, salt and pepper and tossed it all around in a ziploc. Roast on a baking sheet for about 15-20 minutes. Delicious!

Finished plate on my fabulous Valentine's Day Dollar Store table?

YUMMMMMM. A perfect presentation too...I think this would make a great dinner party meal for a small crowd. Everyone gets their own little chicken, what's more impressive than that! It's adorable...well, not so adorable for the chickens themselves, but I try not to think about that.

Overall, it was a time consuming meal to make because there is a good amount of chopping/prep work, but it's not HARD. The finished product is well worth the effort. 

Thanks Giada for another fantastic recipe! 

Happy Weekend everyone!


  1. I am so impressed by your Valentine's Day dinner! I love cornish hens but have always been terrified of cooking them myself. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  2. ahh this looks good! will try soon. :)

  3. This is a fantastic post! I've been familiar with Cornish Game Hens, but had no idea they were actually just little chickens...go figure! Giada has some incredible recipes...and I would totally cook like her if I could stay as skinny as she does! This looks so incredibly good, that I think I'm going to have to add this to my list of "to-do" recipes. Thanks for sharing!