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Thanksgiving Recipe – Try Cornish Game Hen!


Here’s a fun Thanksgiving meat alternative / addition to turkey that I tried at my godmother’s house as a kid and got hooked on: Cornish Game Hen. An amazingly flavorful small game bird, I loved having my own personal hen on my plate as a child and I actually like the meat more than turkey. Turkey is great, but can easily go wrong, and wind up so dry that you’re in need of that gravy and the fixings. Besides Thanksgiving, I rarely choose turkey, but a cornish hen? That, I could have every Sunday.  So here’s one of my favorite recipes — pan-seared, butterflied Cornish game hen served with orzo recipe. I came across the original recipe a few years ago in Essence magazine. Making it was a fun project for my boyfriend and I; over the years I’ve tinkered with the recipe a bit.


First off, “butterflying” for those of you who don’t know, is a fancier way of what I would say, “splaying” the hen and it reduces cooking time. This is how you do it.

  • place the hen backbone side up on the cutting board.
  • Using a knife or poultry shears cut closely along the backbone of the hen on either side.
  • Remove backbone.
  • Open the bird so the drumsticks point out and press down on the breast bone to flatten it.
  • Here’s a youtube video if you’re more visual.

Cranberry Glazed Cornish with Wild RiceNow let’s cook this hen!

  • Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F
  • After your hen is butterflied and cleaned, dry out the skin for about 30 minutes, dabbing with paper towels.
  • In a separate sauce pan, melt 1/2 a stick of butter, lemon zest (can be from the lemon you used to clean your hen), basil or sage leaves (to your liking, I saw this on the Food Network).
  • Season your hen with 1 tablespoon of salt, 2 tablespoons of lemon pepper, and rosemary to your liking. Make sure to really rub the seasoning into the skin. If I have garlic salt, sometimes I’ll use that as an alternative to salt for an added flavor.
  • Heat a large sautée pan lightly coated with olive oil.
  • Once the oil is hot, place your Cornish Hen, skin side down in the pan for about 5 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. You’re searing!
  • Flip the bird over and baste with that delicious butter sauce you created earlier.
  • Place in the oven for about 25 minutes or until cooked through, basting at least twice while it’s in there.
  • Let sit for about 10 minutes and then eat!

As I mentioned before, when we first made this recipe, we made it with orzo. I love orzo as an easy delicious rice alternative. Here’s a quick recipe.

  • Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium high heat.
  • Stir in 1 cup of uncooked orzo and sauté until slightly brown.
  • Stir in one can of chicken stock and bring to a boil.
  • Turn the heat down and cover your skillet. Let simmer until the water is absorbed. This should be around 15 minutes.
  • Turn off the head and mix orzo with 1/2 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese and a 1/4 cup of freshly chopped basil.
  • Transfer to serving bowl and enjoy!

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