With the holidays looking a little different this year and much smaller Christmas celebrations taking place, we’ve put together a delicious main that will hit all the right notes and offer an impressive presentation, even if there are only a few of you. This Maple and Herb-Roasted Cornish Hens recipe is the perfect smaller alternative to a traditional turkey feast.
While we love getting the whole family together for a big Christmas feast, we know that this isn’t an option for most of us this year, and planning a holiday dinner for only a couple of people isn’t always easy. These Cornish hens are easy to cook, stunning to serve and can be pulled together in just over an hour.
The combination of herbs, maple and root veg work beautifully together and help to really showcase these lovely little birds. If you haven’t cooked Cornish hens before, this recipe will serve as a great introduction.
Adding the compound butter underneath the skin keeps the breast meat juicy and ensures that the delicious herb flavours penetrate the entire hen. Basting the birds with the maple-herb butter will help the skin to crisp up for a gorgeous, golden-brown finish.
And maybe the best part; cooking everything in one pan means less mess and less cleanup. The flavours all meld together in the skillet, infusing the vegetables with the cooking juices from the hens. This dish is hearty, packed with taste and everyone gets their own little bird to pick at. These maple and herb-roasted Cornish hens are really easy to pull together and will look great on your table.
Maple and Herb-Roasted Cornish Hens
- 3 tbsp butter softened
- 1 tsp oregano finely chopped
- 1 tsp sage finely chopped
- 1 tsp thyme finely chopped
- 2 tsp rosemary finely chopped
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 2 cornish hens about 1 3/4 lb each
- 1/2 white onion cut into quarters and separated
- 3 cloves garlic
- 6-8 carrots
- 1 handful small potatoes halved
- salt + pepper to taste
- olive oil to coat
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F and place cast iron skillet inside to heat.
- Rinse and pat dry cornish hens. Salt the hens 15 minutes before cooking to draw moisture out. Pat dry again.
- Combine finely chopped herbs (reserve 1 tsp of rosemary) and butter. Season with salt and pepper.
- Carefully slide your fingers under the skin of each breast (from the butt-end of the bird) to create 2 'pockets' between the skin and meat. Rub 2/3 of the herbed butter into these pockets. Season the hens generously with salt and pepper.
- Melt remaining compound butter and combine with maple syrup to create the basting liquid.
- Toss potatoes in oil and remaining rosemary.
- Carefully remove hot skillet from oven and oil the bottom. Place Cornish hens in skillet, breast-side up, and add potatoes, onions and garlic around them.
- Brush melted compound butter onto hens and place skillet back in oven. Be sure to brush the entire bird.
- Halfway through cooking time, add carrots to pan with potatoes and onion. Baste hens with the remaining maple-butter mixture.
- Continue to cook cornish hens until a thermometer placed in the meatiest part of the thigh reads a temperature of 165 degrees F; 45 – 55 minutes. Remove from the skillet, loosely cover with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.