I love to cook with Cornish hens. The taste is very similar to chicken, but slightly more delicate and tender. For a beautiful main dish to serve your guests, I love to stuff Cornish hens with a medley of wild rice, mushrooms, herbs, and toasted almonds. The rice picks up all of those fabulous juices as the Cornish hen is roasting.
For a little sweetness, I like to add a glaze during the last 15 minutes of roasting. The sweetness of my apricot glaze compliments the other ingredients so nicely and it helps to give the bird a gorgeous golden brown color all around. I can promise you’ll be making this recipe for years to come!
Ingredients for the Brine:
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon fennel seed
- 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
- 3 quarts water
- 4 whole Cornish hens innards discarded
Ingredients for the Stuffing:
- 1 ¾ cups water
- ¼ teaspoon fennel seed
- ¼ teaspoon dried marjoram
- 3 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup wild rice
- Kosher Salt
- 1 leek white and light green parts only, diced medium
- 2 garlic cloves
- 10 oz. package Baby Bella mushrooms cut in half and sliced ¼ inch thick
- 3 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4 teaspoons sherry vinegar
- 5 teaspoons freshly chopped parsley
- 4 tablespoons toasted slivered almonds
For the Apricot Glaze:
- 6 tablespoons apricot jam
- 2 tablespoons orange juice
- Zest from 1 orange
- Juice from 1 lemon
For the Brine:
- Combine 1 cup of kosher salt, fennel seed, dried marjoram, and 3 quarts of water in a large pot and stir until the salt is dissolved. Add in the hens, making sure they are completely covered with water. Let sit in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.
For the Wild Rice Stuffing:
- Bring 1 ¾ cups of water, the fennel seed, dried marjoram, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a boil in a pot over medium-high heat. Add in the wild rice, cover, and turn to low heat. Cook for 45 minutes, adding a bit more water if needed to finish cooking. Turn off the heat and let sit (still covered) for 10 minutes, then uncover and fluff the rice with a fork. Mix in ½ teaspoon of salt.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add in the leek and garlic and cook, stirring often, for 4 minutes. Add in the mushrooms, 1 teaspoon of thyme, ¼ teaspoon of salt and freshly ground black pepper, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Combine the mushroom mixture with the wild rice, along with 4 teaspoons of sherry vinegar, the chopped parsley, and toasted slivered almonds. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary. The wild rice stuffing can be made 2 days ahead of time and kept refrigerated. If doing so, let the stuffing come to room temperature before using.
For the Hens:
- Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 400°F.
- Remove the hens from the brine and rinse well in cold water. Set aside and pat dry. Portion the stuffing between the hens and truss each one with kitchen twine. Position the hen with the breast side up and legs facing you. Place the center of the twine under the hen, just behind the wings, then pull the twine over and around the wings. Pull the wings tightly against the bird by crossing the twine underneath the tip of the breasts. Wrap the twine over and then under the legs, pulling the legs tightly together. Flip the hen over, pulling the twine over its tail, and tie with a knot. Cut off the extra ends of the twine if too long.
- For the apricot glaze, whisk together the apricot jam, orange juice, orange zest, lemon juice, and 2 teaspoons of the freshly chopped thyme in a medium mixing bowl. Set aside for later use.
- Place the hens, breast side up, on a rack set in a roasting pan. Brush all over with the rest of the olive oil. Roast for 1 hour, then take out and brush with the apricot glaze, and roast for an additional 15 minutes. Take out of the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Cut in half lengthwise down the middle, or serve whole. Place on a serving platter and pour any jus leftover in the roasting pan on top of the hens.