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Cornish game hens have a lot going for them.  First of all, and most importantly, they are delicious.  You don’t get too far without that.  Second, and almost as important, they are absolutely adorable.  Who wouldn’t want their own little individual-sized bird?  It’s like a miniature chicken!  Perfect for a special occasion, because we all know that serving things in individual portions makes them gourmet.  I’m joking, of course, but where there’s smoke…  I served Cornish game hens to my ham-loving parents for Easter and they were charmed.  And I served them to my husband for our anniversary after a long day at the office.  In fact, I’m thinking seriously about hens instead of a turkey for Thanksgiving.  It’s the cuteness.  It’ll bend your mind, man.

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Garlic and Citrus Roasted Cornish Game Hens

2 Cornish game hens
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
zest of one lemon (plus the lemon)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
kosher salt and fresh pepper
1 cup orange juice

  • Situate a rack in the lower third of your oven and preheat to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Rinse the hens – including the cavity; I know it’s gross, but you need to do it, okay?  Okay?  Why?  Because I said so, that’s why!  Dry them off with paper towels.
  • In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, zest, and chopped fresh herbs.  Season with salt and pepper.  Rub 3/4 of the mixture over the hens.  Stuff the rest under the skin.
  • Cut the lemon (which you zested previously) in half.  Cut a head of garlic in half as well.  Shove half of each into the cavity of each hen.  Tie the legs with kitchen twine.
  • Place the birds into a medium baking pan and pour the orange juice around them.   Drizzle a little more olive oil over each hen – this will help them to brown. Roast 30-35 minutes (or more, if your oven runs cool like mine does) until the juices run clear.

Yield: Serves two.

Source: Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis, with some inspiration from Giada’s Family Dinners, also by Giada.

Wine Pairing: We paired this dinner with a luscious Napa Chardonnay from Cakebread Cellars, one of my favorite wineries, which I am looking forward to visiting next month!  The wine was delightful (tasting notes coming soon, as previously promised) and was a perfect match with the game hens – rich enough to stand up to them, but with some refreshing fruity notes.  If you can’t lay your hands on some Cakebread, I’d recommend any lightly-oaked white wine, nice white Burgundy, or Chablis.  I also think this dish would be nice with Gruner Veltliner, but I think everything is nice with Gruner Veltliner.

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