Rosemary Citrus Cornish Game Hens

    5 hours 10 minutes

    Brining chicken makes it especially moist and tender when cooked. If you can't find Cornish game hens, these directions work just as well with a whole chicken.

    12 people made this

    Serves: 8 

    • 4 1/2 cups (1 1/8 litres) vegetable stock
    • 4 1/2 cups (1 1/8 litres) water
    • 1 tablespoon whole allspice berries
    • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
    • 1 cup sea salt
    • 4 Cornish game hens
    • 1 grapefruit, cut into quarters
    • 1 juicy orange, cut into quarters
    • 1 lemon, cut into quarters
    • 1 lime, cut into quarters
    • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, or to taste, chopped
    • 1 sprig fresh thyme, or to taste, chopped
    • 1/4 cup (65ml) water
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • salt and ground black pepper to taste

    Preparation:20min  ›  Cook:1hour50min  ›  Extra time:3hours chilling  ›  Ready in:5hours10min 

    1. Bring the vegetable stock, 4 1/2 cups of water, the allspice berries, black peppercorns and sea salt to a boil in a large pot, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove the brine from the heat and set aside to cool. When the brine is cool place the Cornish hens into the brine and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours.
    2. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Remove the game hens from the brine and pat dry. Discard the brine.
    3. Place the cut-up grapefruit, orange, lemon, lime, rosemary and thyme into a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on High for 2 minutes; with tongs, stuff the fruit and herbs into the cavities of the Cornish hens. Slather each hen with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Place the stuffed hens into a roasting dish, breast sides up.
    4. Roast in the preheated oven until no longer pink at the bone and the juices run clear, about 1 hour and 45 minutes. For extra-crispy skin turn the oven heat up to 200 degrees C for the last 15 minutes of cooking. Allow the hens to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

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    Reviews in English (9)


    Since creating this recipe, I've made some changes to it and have begun to use it with turkey. For the brine, I boil 4 1/2 cups vegetable broth (using it is a shortcut to making it yourself with water and root veggies), 1 tablespoon allspice berries, 1 tablespoon black peppercorns, 2 sprigs of thyme, and 2 sprigs of rosemary. I replace the water with 4 1/2 cups of unsweetened apple juice (this has really improved the recipe!). Brine the turkey for 1 hour per pound (a turkey bag in a cooler filled with ice, or the lid cracked a bit and set on the front porch, will keep it at the proper temperature). Remove the turkey, dry it with paper towels, allow it to come to room temperature, stuff it with the fruits and spices (if using cheesecloth, you can use dried spices for this instead of fresh), place a few sprigs of rosemary and thyme under the skin of the turkey, and put it into a 350F oven. Bake it as usual, knocking 20 to 30 minutes off of the usual time because brined poultry cooks faster, and then take it out and let it "rest" for 20 minutes so that the juices can be reabsorbed before you carve it. You can apply the same technique to chicken and cornish hens, but alter the time that they're in the brine and in the oven so that you don't end up with a salt lick! ;-) I like to add some rosemary and thyme to milk and allow it to absorb the flavor by setting it over low heat for an hour and use it with mashed potatoes. Enjoy the recipe!  -  24 Nov 2010  (Review from Allrecipes USA and Canada)


    This was out-of-this-world delicious! I was short on time, so I only brined my birds for about 1 1/2 hours (mine were small, so this was sufficient). My hens were done after 1 1/2 hours in the oven. The meat was tender and juicy. I have two more hens in the freezer and can't wait to make these again! Thanks for a wonderful recipe!  -  12 Nov 2010  (Review from Allrecipes USA and Canada)


    There was only one cornish hen left at Wholefoods so I decided to get a whole young chicken instead to make dinner for my girlfriend and myself as our post Christmas dinner. The chicken came out extremely tender and juicy. The citrus flavors were extremely vibrant yet simple- allowing the natural sweetness of the chicken to come through. We thoroughly enjoyed it and my girlfriend said it was the best roasted chicken she has ever had. So it made our Christmas extra special and romantic. Thanks so much for this fantastic recipe!  -  08 Jan 2011  (Review from Allrecipes USA and Canada)