Roast Cornish Hens

Roast Cornish Hens

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One of my parents’ favorite meals was Roast Cornish Hens.  Often, as Shabbat approaches, I am reminded of all the Friday night dinners my parents ate at my table.  My Mother liked them because they are small and my Father liked them because they have both dark and light meat together. He was a dark meat lover; always telling me that it was the dark meat that was more moist and had more flavor. With the hens, he had both. I can still see him in my mind’s eye sitting at the table enjoying the hens, potato kugel and vegetables while staring at his great grandchildren. Looking at them made everything taste even more delicious.

Prep time: 60 minutes

Roast Cornish Hens

By Gloria Kobrin Published: January 23, 2014

  • Yield:

  • 4 hens (8 Servings)


  • 4 Rock Cornish Hens About 1 3/4-2 pounds each* or 8 one pounders
  • 4 Teaspoons Dried Tarragon
  • 2 Teaspoons Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon Dried Parsley
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 Cup Flour (Use matzah flour for Passover)
  • 4 Cups Fresh/Boxed Low Salt Chicken Broth
  • 1/2 Cup Bitter Orange Marmalade/Apricot Jam - Melted Optional


  • 1 Large Roasting Pan
  • 1 non stick roasting rack
  • Medium Saucepan
  • Strainer
  • Poultry Shears


  1. Preheat oven to: 350˚ F.
  2. Clean hens thoroughly- inside and out. Pat dry.
  3. Mix tarragon, pepper, parsley and garlic. Divide herbs and spices between hens; and rub the mixture into each of their cavities.** Place hens on rack in roasting pan breast side up. Roast one hour to 1 ½ hours or until the hens' juices run clear. If you prefer a slightly sweeter and shinier skin, wait until about 30 minutes before the hens have finished roasting and glaze them with melted marmalade or jam.
  4. Allow hens to rest for 15 minutes before cutting them in half with a sharp knife or poultry shears. Cut them in quarters if you prefer smaller servings. Arrange halves/quarters attractively on a platter and cover loosely with foil to keep warm.
  5. Scrape drippings from roasting pan. Reheat drippings and then add flour all at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until a paste forms. Add chicken broth slowly as you continue to stir. Add more broth if you prefer a thinner gravy. Pour gravy through the strainer into the saucepan. Pour off the fat (or use a fat separator) and serve gravy hot. (If you have the time, put gravy in the freezer for at least 20 minutes so the fat congeals and can be removed more easily.)
  6. Serve each guest ½ hen with rice or stuffing and colorful vegetables of your choice. Cranberry sauce is also a great addition to this meal.
  7. *Note: Rock Cornish Hens generally come in two sizes. They are either about two pounds, like small chickens; or they are about one pound like real hens. The larger hens, when halved, generally serve two people. I also halve the smaller ones because I find them easier to eat that way. I count on most people eating two halves when they are small. Cleaning the hens is the hardest part of their preparation. Once you have won the fight with their feathers, the rest is a breeze.
  8. **NOTE: Stuff the hens with your favorite stuffing at this point and increase the roasting time by about 20 minutes. Remember to remove stuffing from hens if there are any leftovers.