Weeknight Holiday Hens

You may think I’m running this Cornish game hen recipe because it’d be perfect for your holiday dinner. It would be, of course, but I’m actually here to make the case that Cornish hens make pretty good weeknight food too. They’re cute, weeknight-priced, and roast up quick. They’re also easy to butterfly, making them roast even quicker.

While the oven preheats to 425 degrees, cut the bird down the back, open it up, and press it down. After that season both sides with salt and pepper and slather on some Dijon mustard. (I love Dijon mustard.) Lightly toast some dry breadcrumbs with thyme and olive oil and sprinkle them over the mustard. After that it’s a little like last Friday’s recipe—just shove it in the oven.

Thirty minutes later, they emerge from the oven golden beautiful. With that kind of prep and cooking time, that’s weeknight dinner to me, but I’d be happy to serve them any holiday.

Weeknight Holiday Hens
Serves: 4
  • 2 Cornish game hens (1½ to 2 pounds each), cut down the back with kitchen shears to butterfly
  • 1½ teaspoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoons dried thyme leaves
  • ¼ cup dry plain breadcrumbs
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup Dijon mustard
  1. Adjust rack to lowest position and heat over to 425 degrees.
  2. Meanwhile heat oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add thyme and breadcrumbs; toast until fragrant and golden, a couple of minutes.
  3. Lightly sprinkle hens all over with salt and pepper.  Place on a rimmed baking sheet large enough for them to comfortably fit in a single layer. Brush hens with mustard and then sprinkle with breadcrumbs.
  4. Roast until impressively golden brown and juices run clear when leg thigh is pricked with a fork, about 30 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes. Serve.


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  1. Amy says

    Thanks so much for the recipe. Mom and I are using the cooking instructions for a party we’re catering in Athens tonight. Hope you have a wonderful weekend with the wedding!

  2. says

    Oh, I love that idea! I usually forget about Cornish hens and just grab chicken breasts or a regular fryer. But I really like the look with the bread crumbs. I think it’s time for me to add a Pam Anderson cookbook to my collection!

  3. Lauren says

    Such a delicious meal! I made this when the last thing I felt like doing was cooking and I was so glad I did instead of getting take-out. Thank you for yet another delicious weeknight meal!

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