Roasted Cornish hen

Sweet or savory marinades enhance the tender texture and juicy flavor of Cornish hens. (TMS photo)

Cornish game hens are very young chickens that weigh less than 2 pounds. 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 gives this marinade and glaze an intense flavor. Orange juice and honey add a touch of sweetness.

The hens are easy to prepare. If your guests aren't big eaters, you can cut the hens in half with poultry shears and serve a half to each guest. In that case, it is a good idea to make a few extra halves for those who want seconds.

If you like, add a teaspoon of chopped fresh rosemary leaves to the marinade and garnish the hens with a rosemary sprig.

Roasted Cornish hens with orange-honey-mustard glaze

Prep: 10 minutes
Marinate: 2 hours
Cook: 40 minutes
Servings: 12

Note: The recipe may be prepared 4 hours ahead through step 2 and refrigerated. Then hens are also good served cold on a luncheon buffet.

Marinade:
1 cup fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon finely chopped orange zest
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 tablespoons each: honey, Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon each: grainy mustard, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, olive oil

Hens:
6 Cornish hens, about 1 1/2 pounds each
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Orange slices

1. Combine marinade ingredients in a nonreactive bowl; taste for seasoning. Carefully separate the skin from the hens. Place the hens in the bowl. Massage the marinade underneath the skin; submerge hens in marinade. Refrigerate, covered, 2 to 4 hours.

2. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Remove hens from marinade, discarding marinade; place hens in a roasting pan lined with foil. Season with salt and pepper to taste, if you like. Roast, basting with the pan juices every 15 minutes, until the hens are golden brown and lightly glazed, 40-45 minutes. Place the hens on a platter or individual serving plates; garnish with orange slices.

Nutrition information:
Per serving: 436 calories, 63% of calories from fat, 30 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 210 mg cholesterol, 3 g carbohydrates, 36 g protein, 176 mg sodium, 0 g fiber.

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