This is an elegantly delicious recipe that requires minimum work, perfect for a romantic holiday meal for 2. You can roast the hens whole if you prefer, but I halve them first to save on roasting time. These hens are too small to carve properly anyway.
You could add an orange slice or two if you’d like an additional garnish, but the colors of the orange cranberry sauce are great just poured over the hens. Simmer the sauce for only long enough to cook the cranberries. Too long will reduce them to a thick sauce that, while tasty, isn’t as pretty.
Two hens will serve 4. If there are two of you, you can easily halve the recipe. I complete this meal with a wild rice pilaf and crisp peas in the pod, but you could serve it with traditional holiday sides for an intimate Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.
Rock Cornish Game Hens with Cranberry-Orange Glaze
12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon orange zest
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 rock Cornish game hens, completely thawed
1/2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a roasting pan or thick baking sheet with foil for easy cleanup.
- Combine the cranberries, sugar, orange zest and orange juice in a medium sized saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir gently until the sugar is dissolved.
- Bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to low, cover and simmer until the berries have popped, about 5 minutes. You will hear a popping sound if you are nearby, otherwise you will see that they have broken open.
- Cook 2 more minutes, then remove from the heat.
- Halve the rock Cornish game hens. Using a sharp knife, cut through the hen at the center of the breast, continuing to cut through the soft breast bone. Grab each side of the breast and pull apart and backwards to crack the backbone. Then, cut through the hen at the cracked bone. You will have two halves, one slightly larger than the other. If you prefer, you can remove the backbone by cutting it from the larger half, leaving you with two equal halves. Repeat with the other hen.
- Rinse the hen halves and pat dry with paper towels. Salt and pepper the cavity side.
- Place the hens onto the prepared baking sheet, skin side up.
- Brush the sauce evenly over the hens. Leave the cranberries in the pan, just brush with the juices of the cranberry sauce, coating generously.
- Roast the hens at 400 degrees until they are done and the juices run clear when pierced with a fork in the thick part of the thigh. It will take about 30 to 40 minutes depending on the size of your hens, but check them after 25 minutes and brush again with more sauce.
- Reheat the sauce again if needed and spoon over the hen halves on the serving plate. Garnish with an orange slice if desired.