Turkey is a tricky bird to cook, requiring elaborate brining and seasoning rituals and a few Hail Marys to turn out moist and flavorful meat. Whether it’s for Thanksgiving or some other festive meal, you can take the pressure off by ditching the turkey for a smaller, moister and quite elegant little bird, the Cornish game hen.
Cornish game hens are single-serving birds that roast in an hour or less. In this recipe the hens are simply seasoned with butter, salt and pepper then stuffed with a rich and satisfying blend of eggs, sausage and herbs. This meaty stuffing makes regular old bread stuffing seem like a stale substitute.
Your guests will be thrilled to have their own individual bird, especially when they discover the delicious stuffing hidden inside. Served with all your favorite holiday sides, it’s a stress-free meal that will leave everyone full and happy.
Time in the Kitchen: 1 1/2 hours
4 Cornish Game Hens
1 pound ground pork (450 g)
1 teaspoon fennels seeds (5 ml)
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley (60 ml)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage (15 ml)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided (60 ml)
1 leek, thinly sliced
1 cup thinly sliced celery (150 g)
4 eggs, whisked
Preheat oven to 425 °F (218 °C).
Pat the game hens dry. Set aside.
Over medium-high heat brown the sausage with the fennel seeds, breaking the meat up into small pieces as it cooks. Season the meat with salt, pepper, parsley and sage. Transfer the cooked meat into a large bowl and set aside.
If there is not enough pork grease left in the pan, then melt 1 to 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the leek and celery and saute until the veggies begin to soften, about 8 minutes. Add the eggs, stirring just enough to scramble the eggs until they are cooked through.
Mix the eggs with the meat.
Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Rub the melted butter all over the birds and season lightly with salt and pepper.
Stuff each bird with the egg and meat mixture.
**Note that there might be some stuffing leftover, but if your hands have touched the raw hens then dipped into the bowl of stuffing, you won’t want to eat the extra stuffing. To avoid this, set 1 cup of the stuffing aside and use it only if needed to add more stuffing to the birds.
Pull the flaps of fat at the tail end of the hens over the open cavity and skewer closed with toothpicks. Tuck wing tips under or cut them off.
Roast the Cornish game hens on a rack in a roasting pan that’s large enough so the birds aren’t touching.
Roast for about 1 hour until cooked through and a thermometer inserted into the thigh and into the center of the stuffing in the cavity reaches 165 °F (74 °C).
Stuffing Safety Tips
Do NOT stuff the birds early and let them sit around before roasting, even if you store them in the refrigerator. Only add the stuffing immediately before roasting the birds.
Ideally, the egg and sausage mixture should still be warm or hot when you stuff it into the hens. This helps the stuffing quickly heat up to a safe temperature in the oven, reducing the risk of bacteria growth.
Make sure the temperature of the stuffing in the middle of cavity reaches 165 °F (74 °C) before taking the hens out of the oven.