Moscato & Clementine Glazed Oven Roasted Cornish Hens ((Our New Year’s Family Tradition))
About five years ago, David and I began the tradition of having Cornish Hens on New Year’s Day. The kids just LOVE it and look forward to this meal all year long. The first time we made them, I was less than impressed. But again, the kiddos. They just loved eating their very own bird. I hated to mention to David that I didn’t like the taste, for fear I would put a damper on our new-found tradition. However, as the next New Year’s approached – I just couldn’t keep it to myself.
“I am sorry, but I don’t just love the taste!” I blurted out as we began writing out our New Year’s dinner shopping list. “The were so bland, I think we need to brine them.” To my surprise, he agreed – they were indeed bland. We undertook investigating brining techniques, purchased the hens and brined away.
We seasoned, stuffed and roasted as usual – and WOW!! They were so juicy and flavorful. An absolute transformation in both taste and texture. HALLELUJAH!
Since that year, we have continued to brine and season in a traditional manner, using lemons, garlic, herbs and onions.
This year, I was very ready to try something a little different. Enter Moscato and clementines. The brine remained simple with sugar, salt, pepper, water and fresh thyme. I still stuffed the breasts with butter ((um, that doesn’t sound right)). But right before I put the hens in the oven, I poured a mixture of Moscato wine, clementine slices, chopped shallots, thyme and salt & pepper over and inside each hen.
Never heard of Moscato? Neither had I until we were out west and I found some sample bottles at the grocery store. I stuck them in my suitcase ((after I purchased them)) and hoped they would survive the flight home. To my delight, there was no wine mess in my bag & I began looking for an opportunity to try this “new” wine in my cooking efforts.
After googling Moscato, I learned it is a very sweet wine that pairs well in Asian cooking and with poultry & fish. It is also considered a great wine to drink with dessert FYI.
Whether it tasted good or not, I knew I had accomplished one thing for sure: these hens were gorgeous!
Let me pause the convo about Moscato & clementines for a moment and tell you about the baking process:
- Place the hens several inches apart on a rack fitted in a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan. The rack ensures even cooking on all sides of the bird.
- Tie up the legs of the hen, it makes her look more lady-like ((oh and helps her cook more evenly)).
- Bake the hens for 30 minutes on 450° and then reduce the temperature to 350º and bake for an additional 30 minutes.
- Save the drippings to make a lovely dripping gravy.
I have no good pictures of making the yummy gravy, see:
Let me just quickly mention, I added a few cups of chicken broth and ½ cup of cream, along with 1 to 2 tablespoons of corn starch and a dash of s & p. I stirred to remove any clumps of cornstarch and then placed the roasting pan over medium flame on my stove. Using a wooden spatula, I scraped up any bits of hen or shallot stuck on the bottom of the pan.
I continued stirring until the gravy reached my desired thickness. Then poured a little pan gravy over each hen and called the herd to the dinner table.
Now for the very best past of the meal, the conversation. “Wow, I just found it’s spine! Is this what my spine looks like?”
“Oh yay!! I found the wishbone – let’s make a wish. Haha I won!”
“Is this where it’s intestines were? Is that why there is a big hole down there?? I am so glad they didn’t leave the ‘INTEST-tines’ in there!!”
“Why are there only Cornish ‘HENS’?? What happens to all of the roosters??” ((hmmm, now that is a good question!!))
PS – what is Kade doing in this picture?? I would sure like to know!
See what great conversations are just waiting to be had ’round your dinner table over a “mess” of Moscato & clementine glazed hens.
- 6 Cornish Hens
- 12 cups of water
- 1/2 c kosher salt
- 1/2 c granulated sugar
- 20-30 fresh thyme stems
- 2 T black pepper
- 6 Brined Cornish Hens, with each hens legs tied together with baker's twine
- 12 pats of butter
- 10 oz Moscato wine
- 4 clemintines, sliced
- 1 large shallot finely chopped
- 12 thyme stems, de-stemmed ((stems discarded))
- 1 t kosher salt
- 1/2 t balck pepper ((or lemon pepper and steakhouse seasoning in place of s & p))
- 1 c water
- 2 c chicken broth
- 1/2 c heavy cream
- 1 - 2 T cornstarch ((depending on desired thickness))
- Using gallon zip-top baggies, place 2 hens in each bag. Combine brine ingredients and stir until salt and sugar are dissolved. pour equal parts of the brine mixture into each bag. Close the bags and refrigerate over night ((approximately 24 hours)).
- Rinse brining mixture off of hens and pat dry. Set hens on a rack lined rimmed baking pan or roasting pan. Each hen needs to roast with 2" of space on each side. Using baker's twine, tie up the hen's legs. Stuff 2 pats of butter underneath the skin of each hen's breast. Combine remaining ingredients and pour liquid over and in each hen. Take care to place thyme leaves, shallots and clementines on and in each bird.
- Place the pans or baking sheets of birds in the oven at 450° for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, reduce baking temperature to 350° and bake for an additional 30 minutes.
- When cooking is complete, remove from oven and set birds aside on dinner plates.
- Combine broth and cornstarch. Stir until no lumps remain. Pour all pan & bird juices one baking pan ((make sure it is stove top safe)) and over medium flame add gravy ingredients, stirring and scraping the bottom until thickened.
- Serve gravy with hens.
- Serves 6