Roasted Cornish Hens


Preparation info

  • Makes


    • Difficulty


Appears in

Thanksgiving: Recipes for a Holiday Meal


By Lou Seibert Pappas

Published 2011

  • About

For an intimate Thanksgiving celebration, consider these individual birds flavored with a tangy orange and onion sauce. The ratio of meat to bone is small, so plan to serve 1 hen per person.


  • Cornish hens, 4, about pounds each
  • Oranges, 4
  • Garlic cloves, 4, cut in half
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for coating, plus tablespoons
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Sweet onions such as Vidalia or Maui, 4, cut into slices ¼ inch thick


    About 30 minutes before roasting, remove the hens from the refrigerator. Pull out and discard the yellow pads of fat from both sides of the body cavity. Pat the hens dry with paper towels.

    Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 425°F.

    Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from 1 orange in ½-inch strips. Working with 1 orange at a time, cut a slice off the top and bottom to reveal the flesh. Stand the fruit upright. Using a sharp knife, thickly slice away the peel and pith, cutting downward and following the natural contour of the fruit. Holding the fruit over a bowl, cut along either side of each section of flesh, freeing it from its membrane and dropping the flesh into the bowl. Repeat with the remaining oranges. Coarsely chop the flesh and set aside. Place 3 or 4 strips of zest and 2 garlic clove halves inside each hen. Truss the hens, if desired. Place on a plate, brush or rub with oil, season with salt and pepper, cover lightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 3–4 hours.

    Add the sliced onions to the reserved orange pieces and toss with the tablespoons olive oil. Transfer to the prepared pan and make a bed in the bottom of the pan. Place the hens, breast sides up, on the onions and oranges. Roast the hens until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the hen breasts away from the bone registers 160°F, 50–60 minutes.

    Transfer the hens to a platter. Let rest for 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, divide the onion-orange mixture evenly among warmed individual plates, top each with a hen, and serve right away.