Super simple buttermilk cornish game hens roasted to perfection! This recipe has only 3 ingredients and is a fabulous Thanksgiving turkey alternative. The smaller size makes them much more manageable, and they roast in just an hour, leaving time for all of the other yummy side dishes you're making to heat up!
Two and a half weeks to Thanksgiving!
There's another countdown in my head to January 20, 2021, BUT I DIGRESS.
Ok so. In keeping with my theme of super easy-yet-delicious Pandemic Thanksgiving Food, I decided to ditch the turkey altogether this year. Why? Because the turkey is stressful. The turkey takes forever. The turkey can be expensive.
Enter: Cornish game hens.
What Are Cornish Game Hens
If you've never had these fun little friends (weird) before, Cornish game hens are small chickens, delicious chickens, tender chickens. They're sold in the 1-2 pound size range, and I find them year round at almost any grocery store in the freezer section.
I've made a bunch of game hens in my life and have always purchased them frozen. I'm sure a fresh/local option is available in some places with the right research. I find the convenience of the size + frozen aspect wonderful for keeping a few of these around and pulling out for emergency fancy food needs.
Literally what is an emergency fancy food need in 2020, but you know what I mean.
The main "skill" here is that we soak these overnight in buttermilk, which tenderizes them even more and helps with super crispy skin while the game hens roast.
When you're ready to roast, preheat the oven and toss all of the buttermilk (ew ew ew no you cannot reuse this). Place the Cornish game hens on a baking sheet with a wire rack inside. I put parchment paper between the two for easy clean up because, again, 2020.
At this point, sprinkle the meat all over with kosher salt, then roast the birds for one hour. That's it.
Three ingredients, one hour plus overnight, and THE MEAT. I portion one half of a game hen per person, but definitely do more if you want leftovers or have meat lovers. The crispy skin plus utterly succulent meat is just out of this world, sorry to the "turkey is the best part of Thanksgiving" camp.
We gobbled these up when we tested them back in September, and they'll be making appearances anytime we need more easy but impressive main dish foods.
What to serve with these easy Cornish game hens? I did some roasted carrots here for an easy side dish, and these would be super yummy with broiled green beans and my favorite Thanksgiving baked rice - just halve the recipe for a smaller gathering.
Enjoy these! They are so, so good. Do you have Thanksgiving plans nailed down yet?
Easy Roasted Cornish Game Hens
- 2 Cornish game hens about 2 pounds each, thawed
- 32 ounces buttermilk
- kosher salt
- Pour the buttermilk into a large bowl or container with a lid. Place the hens in the buttermilk. Cover, and refrigerate overnight.
- When you are ready to cook, prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil (to avoid mess) and place a baking rack inside of the baking sheet. The layers will go baking sheet, parchment, rack. Preheat the oven to 425F.
- Remove the hens from the buttermilk (let excess drip away and discard all of the buttermilk) and sprinkle them all over liberally with kosher salt. Place breast side up on the prepared baking rack.
- Roast the Cornish game hens uncovered for 1 hour until the skin is dark and crispy. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
- I cut the hens in half down the spine for serving, but you can remove the meat from the bones for easier eating, or portion 1 hen per person for larger portions and leftovers.