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Herb-Brined Cornish Game Hens

Instead of a turkey or a big roast, why not serve individual Cornish game hens for the holidays? They cook in a fraction of the time and they're guaranteed to impress all your guests. —Shannon Roum, Cudahy, Wisconsin
  • Total Time
    Prep: 35 min. + chilling Bake: 35 min. + standing
  • Makes
    8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 12 whole peppercorns
  • 5 fresh sage leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 fresh thyme sprig
  • 1 fresh rosemary sprig
  • 1 quart water
  • 1-1/2 quarts cold water
  • 2 large turkey-size oven roasting bags
  • 4 Cornish game hens (20 ounces each)
  • HERB BUTTER:
  • 14 whole peppercorns
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
  • 1/3 cup packed fresh parsley sprigs
  • 3 tablespoons fresh sage leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 pounds fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 2 small red onions, cut into wedges
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper

Directions

  • In a saucepan, combine the salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, sage, garlic, thyme, rosemary and 1 quart water. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir until salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from the heat. Add the cold water to cool the brine to room temperature.
  • Place a turkey-size oven roasting bag inside a second roasting bag; add hens. Carefully pour cooled brine into bag. Squeeze out as much air as possible; seal bags and turn to coat. Place in a roasting pan. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours, turning occasionally. Drain and discard brine; pat hens dry.
  • Meanwhile, place the peppercorns and garlic in a food processor; cover and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add the butter, 3 tablespoons olive oil and herbs; cover and process until smooth. With fingers, carefully loosen skin from hens; rub half the butter mixture under skin. Secure skin to underside of breast with toothpicks; tie drumsticks together. Rub remaining butter mixture over skin.
  • In a 15x10x1-in. baking pan, toss the Brussels sprouts and onions with remaining olive oil, salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer. Place hens, breast side up, on top of the vegetables. Bake at 450° until thermometer inserted in breast reads 165°, 35-40 minutes. Cover loosely with foil if hens brown too quickly.
  • Remove hens and vegetables to a serving platter; cover and let stand for 10 minutes before carving. If desired, garnish with additional herbs.
Nutrition Facts
1 serving: 592 calories, 39g fat (16g saturated fat), 199mg cholesterol, 474mg sodium, 12g carbohydrate (3g sugars, 4g fiber), 49g protein.

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