Chicken, Dinner, Herbs, Main Course, Poultry, Roasting

Chicken Little ~ or, Cornish Game Hens



Every once in a while little chickens made an appearance at the dinner table. We (the kids) felt fancy – primarily because we were eating chicken with a long, complicated name… and we got a whole bird… and we could pretend we were giants… That is, until dad saw us playing with our food and would pinch the bejeezus out of our sides… and make us eat our dinner sitting on the toilet….

good times…

But when you get right down to it – there really isn’t anything fancy about a Rock Cornish Game Hen; the name is somewhat  of a misnomer. It’s just a tiny one pound hen. Grown in about 20 to 25 days, the “game hen” is a hybrid mix of a Cornish Game (just a name of a chicken) and a White Rock Chicken – both smaller chicken breeds. They’re bred for larger breasts and a better fat-to-meat ratio, giving you that full blown roasted hen feel, in a single serving package.

Game Hen

I used to buy them a lot, because I liked that chicken dinner taste you get with them. Whereas with a small fryer – that chicken-y taste is often lacking. Unfortunately, sometime 10 years or so ago, they stopped tasting like hens – and started tasting like fryers… and I didn’t know why…

I wasn’t careful what I was buying. They were injected with water – flavoring – preservatives, and the like, and they just didn’t taste right. Here’s the thing, You really have to look at the poultry you buy to insure you’re getting something edible.

Hormone-Free, No Water Added, No Additives – with costs between $1.25 to $2.25, are all good things to look for.

Things I’ve seen on “Game Hens” that aren’t going to matter:

  • Pasture -Raised (20 to 25 days wont make any difference in the quality of the bird),
  • Free-Range (free range simply means they aren’t raised in cages – they’re raised on the floor of the chicken house {with the opportunity} to go outside in a restricted area… if they want),
  • and Heirloom Breed ( There isn’t any such animal… it’s a created hybrid breed – this chicken isn’t found anywhere out in nature.) These “special” chickens will run you between $4.50 to $6.50 each… and it isn’t going to taste any different than the $1.25 chicky.

So, the Chicky Dinner…

I wanted to do a typical herb hen roast on the birds, and since I still had some of the Coriander Chutney I bought from the international market some time back, I decided on:

Game Hens 2


Roasted Rock Cornish Game Hens

with Coriander Chutney Compound Butter

boy, that’s a mouthful…

Makes 2


2 – 1 Pound Game Hens

2 Tablespoons Softened Butter (or reasonable facsimile)

1 Tablespoon Coriander Chutney (you “can” make your own… the recipe is HERE. However, it’s just as good bought from the market… it just depends on how difficult you want to make your life.)

2 Teaspoons Lemon Juice

Kosher Salt

Cracked Black Pepper

Tools of the Trade:

Foil Lined Roasting Pan

Basting Brush

Meat Thermometer

Rinse and pat the hens dry – inside and out

Give the cavity a good dusting of salt and pepper

Flip the bird over on its breast. And with your fingers, work the skin loose under the wings and across the breast plate to create half dollar sized pockets between the skin and breast meat.

Meanwhile, Mix together the butter, chutney, and lemon juice, and work into a paste. Take half of the compound butter and work under the skin into the pockets you’ve made – do this for both hens. Smear any remaining butter inside the hen cavity.

Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate in the fridge for 30 to 45 minutes

Preheat the over to 400

Place the hens (breast side up) in the foil-lined pan and roast at 400 for approximately 50 minutes – or until the internal temp at the thickest part of the breast reaches 165 degrees

Be sure to baste the hens with the pan drippings 1/2 way through the cooking time


Ckicky Dinner

Serve with roasted potatoes.. or roasted artichokes and potatoes, and some broiled tomatoes (since game hens are kind of a 60’s thing to eat.)




  1. I love roasting Cornish game hens, Toby! I got married way back in March of 1986 and the first family event I hosted was a Father’s Day meal that June. I roasted an oven-full of little hens since everybody got their own. And that was a lot of hens! I don’t think I had ever bought or cooked a Cornish game hen before, but I was hooked! When we lived in Singapore, I couldn’t seem to find them anywhere, so I would haul them back in a cooler when I would visit friends in Kuala Lumpur. So you see the depth of my love, carting hens across international borders. 🙂 Who knows what the customs guys thought.

    I love your version with the chutney butter rubbed all under the skin. Pinning this to try as soon as I can get my hands on some more little birds.

    • you know, I adore them – they’re just a tasty bird :). Since this is near Gainesville (that’s the chicken processing capitol of the WORLD… no joke, we have more chicken houses and processing plants in a 25 sq mile radius than anywhere else in the world.) (( and yes, it does show in the air quality)) Occasionally I can get my hands on 3/4 pound fryers, which are kind of fun to deep fry whole, but they just don’t have the full developed flavor as a rock hen.

      I used Julia Child’s suggestion for cooking temps (400 degrees.) I think the next time I’ll bump the heat down a bit to 375 and cook them just a little longer. They just didnt develop as nice of a dark skin that I prefer.

  2. I’m sure you little birds were delicious prepared with the coriander butter. I have a jar of the chutney in my refrigerator and appreciate a new way of using it.

    • You know, I love that stuff. Although, I originally bought it on a whim with no real idea in mind for it. I try to keep a fresh jar here in the fridge. (It tends to lose some of it’s aroma and OOMPH! after a couple of months.)

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