Cornish hens are the perfect romantic dinner for two people. These game birds are full of flavor, easy to prepare, and quick to cook. Plus, they are just so darn cute! Share one together, and don’t worry about dealing with left overs. Or, if you’re like me and love leftovers, cook up two cornish hens and have an encore round for tomorrow’s lunch!
The stuffing here is just a simple medley of onions, mushrooms, and a little bit of carrot and herbs. It does the trick by keeping the meat moist, while still absorbing flavor from the bird. Skipping the traditional bread crumbs keeps it paleo friendly and gluten free.
The leeks cook slowly in the broth as the cornish hen roasts, resulting in tender, flavorful side dish. The gravy is simple, and bright without any fussing.
Stuffed Cornish Hens with Leeks
- 1 + 1 + 1 Tablespoon butter (3 in total)
- 2 Cornish hens, approximately 1 lb each
- 2 + 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, minced
- 1 cup minced cremini mushrooms (approximately 5 whole mushrooms)
- 1/2 cup minced carrot (approximately 1 regular sized carrot)
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme, minced (approximately 12 leaves or 1 teaspoon dried)
- 3 leeks (approximately 1 lb)
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh black pepper
- 1 Tablespoon arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)
- 1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
- Preheat the oven to 350F and arrange a rack to be in the middle.
- Using your hands, grease a small roasting pan with 1 Tablespoon butter, making sure to get the sides too.
- Remove the gizzard and any giblets from inside the hens. Rinse the cavity, and liberally salt the entire bird, both inside and outside with 2 teaspoons of salt. This can be done the day or night before.
- In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the minced onions, mushrooms and carrots, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook the vegetables until soft and some browning has developed, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Just before taking it off the heat, add the sage. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
- Remove the green tops from the leeks, and slice the white part of the leeks lengthwise. Cut into 1/4 inch thick half moons. Rinse well in water, making sure to get all sand/dirt removed.
- Add the leeks to the roasting pan, along with the minced garlic. Pour the broth into the roasting pan until half of the leeks are submerged. Do not over fill. Add water or white wine if you run out of broth.
- Stuff the cornish hens with the cooled sauteed vegetables and tie up the legs with kitchen twine. Place the hens breast side up on the bed of leeks. Run with 1 Tablespoon butter, and sprinkle with black pepper.
- Place on the middle rack and cook for 1 hour, or until the internal temperature reaches 180F in the thickest part of the thigh. If the chickens begin to brown too quickly during cooking, tent with aluminum foil.
- Remove from the oven and transfer the hens to a carving board to rest.
- Strain the leeks from the broth, keeping both.
- Pour the broth into a small sauce pot on medium-low heat. In a tiny bowl, mix 1 Tablespoon cold water with 1 Tablespoon arrowroot powder (or alternative thickener) until dissolved into a slurry. Add to the broth and bring to a simmer and cook until thick, about 2 minutes. If needed, repeat making the slurry until the desired thickness for the gravy develops. Remove from heat, and add the vinegar.
- Pour the leeks into a small serving bowl and toss with the chopped parsley.
- Serve the Cornish hens with the stuffing, leeks, and gravy.