Have you ever had a Cornish hen? These little beauties are teeny– about the size of your 2 fists together, and they are just so adorable. You can make a platter of these for a holiday meal, and each fits perfectly on an individual dinner plate. My Mom used to make these every year at Christmas Eve– and the ruby-red cranberries in the stuffing make this a festive choice for any holiday or meal where you want to “kick it up a notch.” Cornish hens are a little harder to stuff, because they’re so tiny, but don’t let that stop you. Their cuteness more than makes up for it.
What are we waiting for? Let’s do this!
Cornish Hens with Cranberry Stuffing
(adapted from Taste of Home)
4 Cornish hens
1 onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
3 tbsp. butter or margarine
3 cups fully cooked rice
3/4 cup Craisins (may substitute raisins if you don’t like cranberries)
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
3 tbsp. honey
2 tbsp. lemon juice
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
Vegetable oil, for finishing
Sauté onion and celery in the butter until softened and see-through. Remove the vegetables from the heat and stir in the cooked rice, craisins, walnuts, honey, lemon juice, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Rinse the hens and dry the cavities with paper towels. Stuff hens with the stuffing and secure the legs with baker’s twine. Place hens on a greased baking sheet and pour in just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan (this keeps the hens and their juices from sticking). Drizzle a little vegetable oil over the top of each hen and rub the oil evenly over the bird. Generously salt and pepper each hen, over the oiled surface, using your fingers to rub seasonings into the spaces between the wings and legs. Roast uncovered at 350 degrees until hens are done and skin is crisp and golden brown– about 1.5 hours.
Now, in pictures! 🙂
Start by melting your butter and sautéing the onions and celery. Use a cast iron pan if you have it . . . it gives an amazing, caramelized outside to the vegetables. When the vegetables are nice and soft and tender, take them off the heat.
When the vegetables are finished, go ahead and stir in your other ingredients, all together. Mix the rice mixture thoroughly so that the spices get all the way through. There. Isn’t that pretty? This rice filling is seriously one of the prettiest stuffings I have ever seen.
Rinse your hens and dry out the cavities with paper towels. Grease two 9×13 pans and place the hens into the baking dishes. Stuff the birds with your filling, packing it tightly inside. If you have any leftover stuffing, you can bake it separately in a small baking dish, covered in foil. The stuffing takes about 30 minutes to heat, throughout, when you are heating it separately, so just pop it into the oven during the last half hour of baking time, and you’ll be good to go.
Sorry– but when I look at these hens all I can think is, “I’m just so . . . stuffed!!!” haha. They certainly aren’t being very ladylike, either. Let’s fix that.
Use some kitchen twine (technically, any thick string will do– I’ve used yarn, in a pinch, and nothing terrible happened) to tie the legs closed. This helps the stuffing to stay inside your bird while it roasts. Plus . . . it gives the gals a little dignity, for Pete’s sake. Let’s get those legs closed!
Drizzle a little oil over the top of each chicken and rub it over the surface. Be sure to get oil in the spaces that are hidden, like between the wing and breast. Basically, just get a little bit of oil over every part of the chicken that isn’t touching the baking dish.
Next, sprinkle salt and pepper over the oiled surface, again, paying special attention to the pockets, like the space between the wings. Use your fingers to rub the spices into the spaces and all over the bird, so that every part gets seasoned. Spread a little love around! Even a little chicky needs a little spice in her life, now and again.
When your chickens reach the internal temperature that you want (I shoot for 175ish, but they are safe to eat at 160), take them out of the heat, tent lightly with foil, and allow them to sit for 10-15 minutes to allow the juices to recirculate back through the meat. If you cut into the chickens right away, you’ll have a nice plate full of juice. 🙂 If you let them sit for a little bit, all you will have is nice, juicy meat and amazingly moist, meaty stuffing with a kiss of ruby cranberry.
These little beauties make the perfect meal when you want a real “wow” factor. Something about having a beautiful, individual chicken on each plate, garnished with parsley and fresh cranberries, really makes it feel like a holiday. So make these for your next Christmas Eve dinner. Or make them for a sweet, romantic meal for Valentine’s day. However you do it . . . know that your dinner will be a sweet success.
Because you did it. And I’m just so proud of you.
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