Roasted game hens make perfect party fare |

Roasted game hens make perfect party fare

Diane Rossen Worthington
Tribune Media Services
Roasted Cornish Hens with Orange-Honey-Mustard Glaze.
Jonelle Weaver |

Cornish game hens are very young chickens that weigh less than 2 pounds. Don’t get confused by their name. They are not a game bird, so their flavor is very mild. Sweet or savory marinades bring out their tender texture and juicy flavor.

Combining both whole-grain and creamy Dijon-style mustards here gives this marinade and glaze an intense mustard flavor without overpowering it. Orange juice and honey add a touch of sweetness. This citrus-mustard sauce acts as both a marinade and a glaze.

Perfect for parties, these small hens are easy to prepare and serve for a dinner party. Make sure to offer a sharp knife for cutting into the hens. If your guests aren’t big eaters, you can cut the hens in half with poultry shears and serve each a half. I usually make a few extra halves for those who want seconds.

If you like rosemary, you can add a teaspoon of chopped up fresh rosemary leaves to the marinade and garnish the hens with a rosemary sprig for a pretty presentation. You can also use this marinade on pork tenderloin chicken breasts.

Roasted Cornish Hens with Orange-Honey-Mustard Glaze

Serves 6

Marinade and Glaze:

1 cup fresh orange juice

1 teaspoon finely chopped orange zest

2 shallots, finely chopped

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon grainy mustard

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 Cornish Hens, about 11⁄2 pounds each

Orange slices, for garnish

1. In a nonaluminum bowl, combine marinade ingredients. Taste for seasoning.

2. Carefully separate the skin from the hens by placing your fingers gently under the skin and loosening it. Place the hens in the bowl. Massage the marinade underneath the skin. Rotate the hens until they are completely covered with the marinade. Cover, refrigerate and marinate for 2 to 4 hours.

3. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line a large jellyroll pan or roasting pan with foil. Remove hens from marinade and place them in pan. Roast the hens for 40-45 minutes, basting with the pan juices every 15 minutes, until the hens are golden brown and lightly glazed.

4. Place the hens on a platter or individual serving plates and garnish with orange slices.

Advance Preparation: This may be prepared 4 hours ahead through step 2 and refrigerated. This is also good served cold on a luncheon buffet.

•Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including “Seriously Simple Holidays,” and also a James Beard award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at