Olive Oil Cornish Game Hens {FFwD}

This week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie might sound a bit fancy-shmancy at first, but it’s actually one of the simplest recipes we’ve made so far. Sure, cooking with Cornish game hens is something most of us don’t do all that often. But if you think about it, they’re really just little bitty chickens.

The ingredient list is short: Cornish hens, tapenade, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. And the preparation was easy, too. I spatchcocked the hens (that’s a British term for butterflying; and if you think it’s vulgar, you should hear what the French call it), then stuffed a little tapenade under the skin and dressed the skin with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

I roasted the hens at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes. They smoked up the house quite a bit, and I wonder that I should have roasted them at a slightly lower temperature for a bit longer. No matter, though, as they came out looking great.

I had taken the Cornish hens out of the freezer to cook this past weekend, but somehow let the time get away from me. I knew I needed to cook them before the weekend was up, and I ended up roasting them Sunday night after we had already had dinner. Nonetheless, I tasted some of the meat shortly after it came out of the oven, and it was delicious. The tapenade gave it a rich flavor without being overpowering, and the skin was crispy and flavorful.

I chilled the hens overnight, then pulled the meat off the bones and made a wonderful chicken salad with it. I like cooking Cornish hens from time to time for something different, and the next time I make them, I will certainly reach for this recipe.



  1. Teresa said,

    October 17, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    I really liked this recipe, too – the method is easier than it sounds and all of the components can be gotten together quickly. Eggplant spread sounds like a great substitution for the tapenade – though Dorie’s tapenade is excellent.

    • gaaarp said,

      October 17, 2011 at 9:06 pm

      I wonder sometimes why Cornish hens aren’t more popular for home cooks. They’re easy to do, roast quickly, and taste wonderful.

  2. Alice said,

    October 12, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    I liked this recipe too, as a way to cook the hens but the olive tapenade was too overpowering for us so I would use a different rub or maybe try it with green olives next time, but all in all it was sure tasty! Glad you liked this one too!

    • gaaarp said,

      October 12, 2011 at 5:57 pm

      Funny, others found the tepenade too mild. Different strokes!

      • Alice said,

        October 14, 2011 at 4:40 pm

        Yeah I saw that as I read through the posts!… Makes me think that the briney olives instead of the oil packed ones really makes a difference in the tapenade! 🙂

  3. Sara said,

    October 10, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    Nice! I think these are fun, just because of the size–as you say they are really easy but sound very fancy!

    • gaaarp said,

      October 10, 2011 at 10:10 pm

      If I can figure out how to make them without smoking up the house, they’ll be a regular on the menu!

  4. October 10, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    The chicken/hen salad must have been wonderful with the tapenade notes. I actually made sandwiches yesterday with two leftover thighs and a bit of provolone.

    • gaaarp said,

      October 10, 2011 at 7:50 pm

      The “hen salad” was really good. It didn’t occur to me until after the fact that I should have spread a bit of the tapenade on the bread when I made the sandwiches.

  5. October 8, 2011 at 11:09 am

    I don’t cook cornish hens very often either, but after making this recipe I was wondering why not! I mean, they cook up quicker than a regular chicken and make such a nice portion size. I also thought that this was a great method for cooking the birds in general, though not sure I’ll use tapenade next time.

    • gaaarp said,

      October 8, 2011 at 11:48 am

      I used to make them stuffed with something — apples, I think. They cook up so much faster than a whole chicken, and I think they look rather elegant when you serve them. Time to put Cornish hens back in the rotation, I think!

  6. Karen said,

    October 8, 2011 at 12:07 am

    Those came out of the oven looking wonderful!

    • gaaarp said,

      October 8, 2011 at 5:44 am

      Thanks! They were quite tasty, and the leftovers made great chicken salad.

  7. Eileen said,

    October 7, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    Looks great! Glad you enjoyed it. My tapenade didn’t taste like much, once it was cooked, so I probably wouldn’t make this recipe exactly as written again.

    • gaaarp said,

      October 7, 2011 at 7:01 pm

      I didn’t actually use tapenade. I had a roasted eggplant spread, and it tasted really good once it was roasted with the skin.

  8. Kayte said,

    October 7, 2011 at 11:01 am

    Love the finished look of those little hens…the browning on them is really nice. This would be an easy one for the two of us here at home to share one of those little hens, must get to this soon.

    • gaaarp said,

      October 7, 2011 at 11:18 am

      Around here I most often see Cornish hens in the freezer section at the store in a 2-pack. For about 7 bucks, you could have several meals.

  9. Cher said,

    October 7, 2011 at 8:38 am

    By the time I was done with this one, I felt like I was the one who had been “spatchcocked”
    Glad you enjoyed

    • gaaarp said,

      October 7, 2011 at 4:17 pm

      Other than the smoky kitchen, I didn’t have too much trouble with this one.

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