Log In / Join Now

Dining Tip: Roasted Cornish Hens Three Ways

Spatchcocking a bird is the best way to achieve juicy meat and crispy skin; try a tandoori, white-wine or lemon-pepper marinade, and pair with Chardonnay
Photo by: Evi Abeler
Spice up classic Cornish hens with three bold marinades.

Posted: April 17, 2017

Note: This recipe originally appeared in the May 31, 2017, issue of Wine Spectator, "Matching Food & Wine."

Roasted Cornish game hens

• 4 Cornish game hens, about 1 1/2 pounds each
• Tandoori-inspired marinade, or a variation (recipes follow)
• 1 lemon, cut into wedges, for garnish
• Cilantro sprigs, for garnish

1. Spatchcock the hens: Place one hen at a time breast-side down on a cutting board and cut out the backbone with poultry shears or a sharp chef's knife. Turn skin-side up and flatten by pressing or hitting the breast with the heel of your hand.

2. Place the hens in the bowl used to make the marinade and coat them thickly. Transfer hens and any remaining marinade into a container or ziplock storage bag(s) large enough to accommodate them. Refrigerate 5 to 24 hours.

3. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Remove the hens from the marinade and blot off almost all the marinade. Arrange the hens skin-side up on a sheet pan and roast for 20 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into a breast registers 160° F. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

4. Garnish hens with lemon wedges and cilantro sprigs. Serves 4.

Tandoori-inspired marinade
• 3 lemons
• 3 tablespoons curry powder
• 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
• 4 cloves garlic, crushed
• 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
• 2 cups plain yogurt (not Greek-style)
• 1/4 cup kosher salt
• 1 onion, thinly sliced
• 1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves

Juice the lemons and discard the seeds. Cut rinds into thick slices. In a large bowl, mix the lemons, including rinds and juice, with remaining ingredients.

Suggested pairing: Shafer Chardonnay Napa Valley Carneros Red Shoulder Ranch 2014 (93 points, $52)

White wine and garlic marinade
• 1 1/2 cups white wine
• 1 large onion, sliced
• 1 head garlic, crushed
• 8 to 10 sprigs thyme or chervil
• 1 tablespoon kosher salt
• Rosemary sprigs, for garnish

Combine wine, onion and garlic in a nonreactive saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook 5 minutes. Transfer to a blender, add the thyme or chervil and puree. Cool to room temperature. Follow main recipe starting with Step 2. Garnish the hens with rosemary sprigs.

Suggested pairing: Hamilton Russell Chardonnay Hemel-en-Aarde Valley 2015 (94 points, $37)

Lemon-pepper-mustard marinade
• 2 lemons
• 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
• 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
• 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
• 1 large shallot, sliced
• 1 tablespoon kosher salt
• Thyme sprigs, for garnish

Juice the lemons and discard the seeds. Cut the rinds into quarters. Puree all ingredients in a blender. Follow main recipe starting with Step 2. Garnish the hens with thyme sprigs.

Suggested pairing: Louis Jadot Pouilly-Fuissé 2014 (91 points, $28)


More Helpful Information:


WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.