Cornish Hens with Stuffing

Tender, roasted Cornish Hens with Stuffing makes Thanksgivings extra special. An easy apple mustard glaze takes the place of gravy, and a classic bread stuffing soaks everything up. A smaller bird makes a big impression because everyone gets their own. 

A whole Cornish hen on a gray plate with stuffing.

Instead of a gigantic turkey, this year I’m opting for the Cornish hen. They’re no more exotic or difficult to cook than a regular chicken because all they are is a younger version of a chicken. More tender, though, and slightly more expensive.

This easy two-person recipe, stuffing and all, can be expanded as you see fit in case there’s four at the table, as long as you have room in the oven.

Recipe ingredients:

Labeled Cornish hens with stuffing ingredients in various dishes.

Ingredient notes:

  • Cornish hens: A type of chicken that is smaller than the usual variety–usually 2 pounds or less. So that everything finishes up at the same time, buy hens that are as close as possible in size and weight, about 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 pounds (20 to 24 ounces) each. They’re not impossible to find; even Aldi carries them.
  • Parsley, sage, thyme, marjoram: All classic Thanksgiving herbs that taste delicious with poultry. Fresh is ideal (and should be easy to find around the holidays) but dried will work in a pinch.
  • French bread: You can also use brioche, challah, or another egg bread as well. 

Step-by-step instructions:

Before you start, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. The stuffing and the Cornish Hens both cook at the same temperature, but the stuffing cooks faster. So, to make sure everything cross esthe finish line together, pop the hens in the oven first, then the stuffing about 45 minutes later.

  1. In a small saucepan, bring the apple juice to a boil over medium heat and cook until reduced by half (aim for having a cup of liquid left.) Take the saucepan off the heat and immediately stir in the honey and mustard. Divide the liquid equally into two bowls of about 1/2 cup each; one for basting, and another for serving later on.
    Cornish hen glaze in a silver saucepan.
  2. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan with butter. Next, melt some butter in a skillet. When it foams, add the celery and chopped onion and sauté until soft and translucent, about 7 to 8 minutes.
    Stuffing ingredients in a saucepan.
  3. While the onions and celery are doing their thing, beat the egg in the bottom of a large bowl. Then pour in the broth and season with salt and pepper.
    Stuffing ingredients in a mixing bowl.
  4. Next, add the herbs to the skillet and stir; cook just until you can smell them–only about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and pour the contents of the skillet into the bowl with the beaten egg; mix well. Add the bread chunks to the bowl and toss everything together thoroughly. The mixture should be moist but not soaking wet. Spread the stuffing into the buttered baking dish, cover tightly with foil, and bake at 350 degrees alongside the hens for 25 minutes. Then remove the foil and bake another 15 to 20 minutes, until the edges turn crispy and the top turns golden.
    Unbaked stuffing in a baked dish.
  5. Truss each bird by tucking the wings under the body to secure, then tying the drumsticks together with kitchen twine. Next, place both hens in a shallow baking dish. Rub softened butter all over the skin, season with salt and pepper, and bake uncovered at 350 degrees.
    Two unbaked Cornish hens in a baking dish.
  6. Start brushing on the apple glaze and basting with the juices after one hour, then about every 20 minutes after that until they’re done. If the hens start to brown too quickly, tent the tops loosely with foil.
    A Cornish hen in the oven being brushed with glaze.
  7. They’re ready to take out when a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 170 degrees. Once they’re out of the oven, tent the hens with foil and let them rest for 10 minutes before serving.
    Two cooked Cornish hens in a baking dish.

Recipe tips and variations:

  • Safe thawing: Thaw frozen hens in a bowl of cold water for 1-2 hours (change the water every 30 minutes) or in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. Make sure you place them on a tray to catch any juices that leak out of the packaging. Never leave frozen poultry out at room temperature, or use warm water to thaw. 
  • Cooking times vary: It’s difficult to gauge the exact cooking time since every hen is different. Use a good meat thermometer, and stick it deep into the thickest part of the thigh. Once poultry hits 165 degrees, it’s safe to eat, but a little longer in the oven makes the skin crisp up without drying out the meat.
  • Bread for stuffing: Dry, stale bread is perfect for stuffing so it can soak up the moisture. Cube the French bread (or tear into rustic chunks) and let it dry at room temperature, covered with a kitchen towel, for up to 3 days before you need it. Stale is okay, here. If you need it right away, spread the chunks out on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in a 225-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes.
  • Chicken: If you don’t mind sharing, you can give a standard chicken the same treatment. It will still be delicious.

Two whole Cornish hens on a gray plate with stuffing.

More Thanksgiving for Two recipes:

Cornish Hens with Stuffing

Tender, roasted Cornish Hens with Stuffing makes Thanksgivings extra special. An easy apple mustard glaze takes the place of gravy, and a classic bread stuffing soaks everything up. A smaller bird makes a big impression because everyone gets their own.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 2 servings
Calories: 814kcal
Author: Meggan Hill

Ingredients

For the hens:

  • 2 (1 1/4- to 1 1/2 pound) Cornish hens thawed (see note 1)
  • 2 tablespoons butter softened
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the stuffing:

  • 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick) plus more for buttering dish
  • 1/2 large onion chopped
  • 2 ribs celery halved lengthwise and chopped
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley minced (see note 2)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh sage minced, or 1/4 teaspoon dried
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme minced, or 1/4 teaspoon dried
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh marjoram minced, or 1/4 teaspoon dried
  • 1/2 large loaf French bread cut into 1/2-inch cubes and dried overnight on counter (see note 3)

For the apple glaze:

  • 2 cups apple juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard

Instructions

  • Adjust oven racks to accommodate both baking dishes at the same time (one for the hens, one for the stuffing). Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For the hens:

  • Truss the hens by tucking the wings against the hens, running a piece of cooking twine from the neck of the bird around the breasts, and tie the drumsticks together. Place the hens breast side up in a shallow baking dish. Rub each hen with butter, and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Bake uncovered for one hour.

For the stuffing:

  • While the hens are baking, prepare the stuffing. Coat a 9-inch by 9-inch baking dish with butter.
  • In large skillet over medium-high heat, melt butter until foaming. Add onion and celery and sauté until translucent, about 7 to 8 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl whisk the egg. Stir in broth, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
  • To the skillet, add parsley, sage, thyme, and marjoram until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer to the bowl with the eggs and mix well. Add bread cubes and toss to combine. Transfer to prepared baking dish.
  • Cover tightly with foil and bake until mostly heated through, about 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake until crispy edges form, about 15 to 20 minutes longer. 

For the apple glaze:

  • While the hens and stuffing bake, prepare the apple glaze in a small saucepan. Bring the apple juice to boil and cook until reduced by half (1 cup). Remove the saucepan from heat and stir in honey and Dijon mustard. Set aside 1/2 cup for serving.
  • Brush hens with apple glaze and bake until a thermometer reads 170 degrees, about 25 to 35 minutes longer, basting with pan juices occasionally (if hens brown too quickly, cover the pan loosely with foil).  Remove hens from oven, tent with foil, and let stand 10 minutes. Serve the hens with stuffing, passing the reserved apple glaze separately.

Notes

  1. Cornish hens: A type of chicken that is smaller than the usual variety--usually 2 pounds or less. So that everything finishes up at the same time, buy hens that are as close as possible in size and weight, about 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 pounds (20 to 24 ounces) each. They're not impossible to find; even Aldi carries them.
  2. Parsley, sage, thyme, marjoram: All classic Thanksgiving herbs that taste delicious with poultry. Fresh is ideal (and should be easy to find around the holidays) but dried will work in a pinch.
  3. French bread: You can also use brioche, challah, or another egg bread as well. 
  4. Safe thawing: Thaw frozen hens in a bowl of cold water for 1-2 hours (change the water every 30 minutes) or in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. Make sure you place them on a tray to catch any juices that leak out of the packaging. Never leave frozen poultry out at room temperature, or use warm water to thaw. 
  5. Cooking times vary: It's difficult to gauge the exact cooking time since every hen is different. Use a good meat thermometer, and stick it deep into the thickest part of the thigh. Once poultry hits 165 degrees, it's safe to eat, but a little longer in the oven makes the skin crisp up without drying out the meat.
  6. Bread for stuffing: Dry, stale bread is perfect for stuffing so it can soak up the moisture. Cube the French bread (or tear into rustic chunks) and let it dry at room temperature, covered with a kitchen towel, for up to 3 days before you need it. Stale is okay, here. If you need it right away, spread the chunks out on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in a 225-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes.
  7. Chicken: If you don't mind sharing, you can give a standard chicken the same treatment. It will still be delicious.

Nutrition

Serving: 2servings | Calories: 814kcal | Carbohydrates: 100g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 40g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 94mg | Sodium: 1512mg | Potassium: 707mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 38g | Vitamin A: 2462IU | Vitamin C: 25mg | Calcium: 128mg | Iron: 5mg
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