Oven roasted on a bed of vegetables, these tender and juicy little birds pack quite a punch for their petite size.
Simple to make, this is one dish that both you and your guests will agree is not just delicious but also arguably fancy! Serve it with our Simple Saffron Rice, or make one of these birds for each person in lieu of a large Thanksgiving turkey, and you can be sure that your guests will be left raving about this recipe for a long time!
For this post we’re making a meal for two and we’ll start off with two Cornish hens that have been cleaned, washed, and patted dry. Along with our birds we have light olive oil, butter, and a spice blend of salt, black pepper, dried oregano, smoked paprika, garlic powder, and dried rosemary.
On our plate we have an assortment of herbs and vegetables that we’ll be using to stuff into the cavity of our bird including carrots, celery, fresh lemon slices, fresh parsley and sprigs of fine thyme.
And finally, on our tray we have our vegetables, which can be any vegetable of your preference. Today I’m using sliced bell peppers, celery, onions, garlic, baby carrots, frozen sweet peas and cubed potatoes. And, though not pictured, we’ll be using some chicken stock or broth to intermittently pour into our baking tray to create both steam and flavor and keep our birds and vegetables tender and prevent them from drying out.
Using a simple blend of salt and pepper and a splash of light olive oil, we’ll toss our vegetables in the seasoning.
Next we’ll ensure that our birds are dry before we rub some oil all over them and slide some chunks of butter beneath the skin.
With our birds oiled and buttered, we’ll mix our seasoning blend together…
…And cover the outside and the internal cavity with a generous amount of our rub. We want the flavor of our herbs and spices to seep into the meat of our hens from all angles so don’t skip the inside!
Next, we’ll stuff the cavity with an assortment of herbs and vegetables including celery, fine thyme, parsley, carrots, and fresh lemon wedges.
With our birds stuffed and seasoned, it’s time to truss our Cornish hens up. I didn’t have any oven-grade ties on hand so I simply used a piece of aluminum foil that I folded over multiple times into a 2cm wide strip, and, as you can see in the above image, it works just as well to bind the legs together.
Onto our tray of vegetables our birds will go. Do be sure to tuck the wing tips into the “armpit” of the legs to keep them from burning when we cook our bird. Also, be sure to push your vegetables up around your birds, leaving a clear border around your tray. This is done for two reasons. 1. it keeps the vegetables from cooking too quickly since the Cornish hens will take some time to cook. 2. when we pour our stock in, the salts from it will burn and create a bit of a charred border which, despite adding a ton of flavor, isn’t what you want on your food.
After baking, (and occasionally adding some of our stock to the tray) our birds and vegetables are done. Tender, juicy, and perfectly seasoned with a golden brown skin , they are simply exquisite.
Enjoy them with just their vegetables, or on a bed of golden Saffron Rice, however you choose to enjoy them, these little birds will surely capture your heart and your stomach!
Oven Roasted Cornish Hen on A Bed of Vegetables
For the Vegetables:
For the Cornish Hens
To Stuff the Hens:
- 2 ribs celery (leaves included)
- 6 baby carrots
- ½ large fresh lemon (sliced)
- 2 sprigs fresh parsley
- 2 sprigs fine thyme
- 1½ cups chicken bone broth or stock
- Preheat oven to 450°F (230°C)
Prepare the Vegetables
- Season the chopped vegetables with salt, pepper and light olive oil. Toss to coat and evenly spread them onto a baking tray.
Prepare the Cornish Hens
- Using paper towels, pat both the outside and inside cavity of the hens dry.
- Run your fingers beneath the skin of the hens and lift to create a pocket. Once the skin is separated (but still attached to the bird), spread 1 tbsp of room temperature butter in as even a layer as possible beneath the skin.
- Mix together the spices and generously sprinkle both the outside and inside cavity of the hens.
- Stuff the cavity with the carrots, celery, parsley, fine thyme, and lemon slices.
- Using an oven safe tie, kitchen string, or a foil strip folded over numerous times to form a 2cm wide tie, truss the hens up (bind their legs together) and tuck their wing tips into the "armpit" of the leg to keep it from burning when baked.
- Place the hens onto the bed of seasoned vegetables. Push the vegetables up around the hens, leaving at least a one inch border between the vegetables and the edges of the baking tray.
Bake the Hens and Vegetables:
- Place the baking tray in the pre-heated oven for an hour. At the 30 minute mark, pour ½ cup of the stock around the border created between the vegetables and the side of the baking sheet and allow it to continue baking. Add another ½ cup at the 40 minute mark and a final ½ cup at the 50 minute mark.
- Remove the tray from the oven at the end of the 60 minutes and allow it to rest for 15-20 minutes before serving.
- Enjoy your hens with just the roasted vegetables or serve with any side of your choice such as a Coconut Saffron Rice. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.
- When you add the stock to the border created between the edge of the baking tray and the vegetables it will bake off and leave behind a salty residue that will blacken. This is normal and it is easy to remove both the vegetables and the hens without being affected by it. In the event that some flecks do get onto the vegetables, it is perfectly edible and adds great flavor to your vegetables.
- To clean this black residue simply soak the sheet for an hour in warm water.