I do not see too many Cornish hens in the poultry department these days. I guess people prefer the large chicken breasts without bones. I feel the meat around the bones is the tastiest, and the Cornish hen certainly has enough bones to pick from. The beauty of this dish is that every portion ends up being a whole Cornish hen, so it’s easy and makes for a beautiful presentation. Season, butterfly, and sear; then finish in the oven.
- 6 Cornish hens, about 1½ pounds each
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ cup -extra--virgin olive oil
- 6 pickled hot cherry peppers, halved, seeded (if desired), plus ¼ cup brine
- 8 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
- 6 fresh bay leaves
- 4 fresh rosemary sprigs, needles removed
- 1 cup white wine
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Remove the wingtips from the hen. With scissors cut out the backbones from Cornish hens (save for stock). Open the hens and press at the breast to flatten them. In a large roasting pan, toss the hens with the salt, olive oil, cherry peppers and brine, garlic, bay leaves, and rosemary. Marinate for 1 hour.
Heat a large -cast–iron skillet over -medium–high heat. Pour the marinade into a bowl, and mix with the white wine. Sear the hens in the hot skillet in batches to brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. As the hens are browned, return them to the roasting pan, and arrange them breast side up, fitting them flat in the pan. Pour the wine with marinade over the hens, and roast on the middle rack of the oven for 30 minutes. Move the pan to the bottom of the oven, and roast until hens are cooked through, the skin is crispy, and the marinade has reduced to a sauce, about 15 minutes more. If the hens are done and the sauce is still too thin, move the hens to a serving platter and reduce the sauce in the pan directly on the stovetop.