Orange-glazed Cornish hens are easy to make but elegant enough to serve at your next dinner party. The simple marmalade glaze works well with the roasted hens, balancing the savoriness of the meat with the sweet tartness of oranges.
You can fill the Cornish hens with your favorite rice, bread, fruit, or cornbread stuffing—just be sure to prepare it ahead of time and let it cool before stuffing the birds. You can even stuff empty orange peels for a nice side dish with an impressive presentation.
- Optional: 1 tablespoon gravy enhancer (such as Gravy Master or Bovril)
- 4 Cornish game hens (thawed in the refrigerator if previously frozen)
- 1/4 cup orange marmalade
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- Optional: Stuffing of your choice
- Optional: 1 medium navel orange (quartered)
Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking pan (large enough to hold the hens) with aluminum foil for easier clean-up.
If using, massage the gravy enhancer over the skin of the Cornish hens. Trim off wing tips or tuck the wings behind the back of the bird.
Place the orange marmalade, butter, and Worcestershire sauce in a microwave-safe bowl and melt in the microwave for about 1 minute. Stir until combined. You do not want it boiling hot.
If you are using a stuffing, fill the Cornish hens; alternatively, place a wedge of orange into each cavity. Place the hens breast-side up in the prepared pan and brush with half of the orange glaze.
Bake uncovered for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and baste with remaining glaze. Return to oven and bake an additional 15 minutes. Test with an instant-read thermometer in center of stuffing or between the thigh and breast, making sure not to touch bone; it should read 180 F.
Let rest 10 minutes before serving.
- When choosing an orange marmalade, you can use a low-sugar variety if you prefer.
- Instead of cooking the glaze in the microwave, you can melt it on the stove-top. Just make sure not overcook; the mixture should only be cooked until melted, not boiling.
- The gravy enhancer gives the hens a nice golden color without adding any calories or a strong taste. It is used to give gravies that may need a little help a richer color and flavor boost, and when rubbed onto the hen's skin, provides a nice golden hue.
- This orange marmalade glaze can be used for whole chickens as well as turkeys. This recipe makes enough for 8 servings so increase the glaze ingredient quantities as needed.
What is a Cornish Hen?
Developed in Cornwall, England, in the 1950s, Cornish hens were created as a small-sized bird with mostly white meat that would appeal to a sophisticated palate. They are not game birds but instead diminutive roasting chickens that can be prepared and cooked similarly to a whole chicken. Some markets will sell fresh Cornish hens, but if you cannot find them in the poultry case look for them in the frozen section of the store, where they may be offered in pairs.