After much, much experimentation, I have come up with a no-fail cooking method for Cornish game hens. This is a good date meal because it looks a lot more difficult than it is.
Failure-proof Cornish game hens
Equipment needed: roasting pan (ideally with elevated rack), meat thermometer
Stuffing of your choice
2 Cornish game hens, thawed and rinsed
2 tsp butter, cut into 4 equal pieces
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Appx. 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch asparagus or other vegetable of your choice
1. Make your stuffing. You can use whatever kind you like; here’s my favorite:
Prepare your favorite cornbread batter. Before you bake it, add 1 shallot, finely minced; 1/2 cup chopped pecans; and 1/2 cup dried cherries, cut up a little. Bake according to recipe directions; set aside to cool until it doesn’t hurt to touch it. Cut it into approximately 1-inch cubes. Sprinkle about 1/2 cup chicken stock over stuffing, mixing with your hands, until it is moist and holds its shape when squeezed.
2. Heat oven to 400F.
2a. Warm up your stuffing if it’s room temperature or cooler. A minute or so in the microwave will do it. The idea is that since we’re taking the temperature from the cavity, you don’t want to require a lot of extra time to get cold stuffing up to temperature, because by that time, your hens will be overcooked.
3. Prepare hens: dry hens well with paper towels. Fill with about 1/2 cup stuffing; don’t overstuff. Separate the skin from the breast just enough that you can get your finger in there; slide a butter chunk between the skin and each of the two breast parts per hen. Rub all over with olive oil, then season generously with salt and pepper. Place breast-side down in roasting pan. Insert meat thermometer (ideally remote-read) into the center of the cavity, so it’s stuck into the stuffing. Roast for 25-30 minutes or until just beginning to brown.
4. Flip hens so they are breast-side up. Roast until the thermometer reads 150F, which should take another 15-20 minutes.
5. Remove pan from oven; set rack with hens on it aside. Put asparagus and stir to coat in drippings. There’s nothing better than taking a perfectly healthy food like asparagus and cooking it in chicken fat. Replace rack and return pan to oven.
6. Crank the heat up to 450F. Remove from oven when thermometer reads 165F, which should be another 5-10 minutes. The skin will be nice and browned, the meat will be cooked through but still juicy, and your dining partner will think you’re fancy.