When I come across fresh cornish game hens at my local butcher I always get them and use them as a fun substitute in my favorite roasted chicken recipes. They are little, so they cook up a lot faster, and they always come out melt in your mouth tender with perfectly even crispy skin. They are delicious and make for an impressive presentation!
Feel free to substitute regular bell peppers of various colors for the baby ones (but avoid the green ones, too bitter for this recipe), just chop them into uniform 1 or 2 inch chunks. But, if you come across sweet baby bell peppers, I highly recommend them for this recipe. Their sweetness really complements the olives and rosemary, and just look at these beautiful colors!
I love the combination of sweet baby bell peppers with the classic mediterranean flavors of rosemary, onion and black olives. Especially when roasted along with juicy Cornish game hens!
You can use plain old regular butter to baste the chicken, but I find that clarified butter mixed with a little olive oil creates a crisper skin and plus, it’s a lot healthier for you. Also, feel free to use plain black olives such as Kalamata, but I really recommend the cured ones. Just don’t add too many! I once decided to use up an entire container of cured olives I had left in the fridge and the olive flavor overwhelmed the entire dish.
Cornish game hens can vary in size quite a bit. If they are too big for one person, cut them in half and arrange on a large platter over the vegetables and let guests help themselves. If they’re small however, they look so pretty served individually. If you can’t find Cornish game hens, try this recipe with a regular chicken. Just roast at 450 for about 20 minutes until skin is a golden brown, then lower the temperature to 350 and roast until chicken registers 160 in the thigh. Make sure to let it rest before cutting for at least 10 minutes.
These Roasted Cornish Game Hens with Rosemary, Black Olives, Baby Bell Peppers and Onions make a surprisingly scrumptious low carb meal! Or serve with some crusty Italian style bread to soak up the irresistible sauce.
Some mashed potatoes would be lovely here too, or even polenta. But if you’re watching the carbs, it’s satisfying enough just with the roasted veggies. You will find yourself, however, scooping up the sauce and if no one is looking… licking the plate 🙂
- 4 cornish game hens
- 2 leeks
- 2 medium sweet onions
- 1 lb (approximately) baby sweet peppers (or 2 to 3 regular red peppers)
- 1 lemon, cut into 4 wedges
- 8 to 10 sprigs of rosemary
- 1/2 cup cured black olives
- 6 garlic cloves
- 2 tbs butter (preferably clarified butter)
- 3 tbs olive oil
- 1/2 cup low salt chicken broth
- 1/4 cup white wine (optional)
- 1 tbs kosher salt (or more to taste)
- 1/2 tbs freshly ground black pepper
1) Preheat oven to 450. Rinse the cornish game hens if necessary and pat dry with paper towels very well.
2) In a small bowl, melt the butter in microwave for 20 seconds or so and then mix in the olive oil. Season the hens with half of the salt and pepper, making sure to also sprinkle inside the cavity.
3) Squeeze a quarter of the lemon in each cavity and place the actual lemon inside. Also add 1 rosemary sprig to each cavity and 1 garlic clove, cut in half and smashed. Brush the butter / oil mixture all over each hen leaving half for later brushing (can also use clean hands to rub it into the skin) and the sprinkle half of the left over salt and pepper. Let sit at room temp for 15 minutes, or if you need more time, then place in fridge without covering. This helps the skin dry out which makes it crispier when it cooks.
4) Prepare the vegetables:
Cut the dark green parts off the leeks (leaving only the long white part) and slice the leeks in half. Wash under cold water, making sure you wash between the first few outer layers, as they tend to have dirt in them. Slice into 1 inch pieces and place into a deep sheet pan.
Peel the sweet onions, quarter or cut into sixths if too large and add to the sheet pan.
Wash the sweet peppers. Cut off the stems, cut then peppers in half and again in half if they are the larger ones…leave the small ones just cut in half. Add peppers to sheet pan.
Sprinkle remaining salt and pepper over the veggies, pour 3 tbs olive oil over them, spread the olives evenly and scatter a few rosemary sprigs over.
5) Place the cornish hens on top of a rack over the veggies and place in oven. Cook at 450 for about 25 minutes, until the hen skins turn a nice uniform golden brown.
6) Pull out the sheet pan, add 1/2 cup low salt chicken broth, the wine if using, and brush hens once again with the butter/ oil mixture. Lower the heat to 350 and cook hens another 20 to 25 minutes, or until they register 160 in center and juices run clear.
7) Remove hens to a plate ad loosely cover with foil. Raise oven back to 400, place veggies back in and cook another 15 to 20 minutes, until soft and some of the liquid has been been absorbed.
8) Serve cornish game hens either individually over the vegetables or place veggies on a large platter and arrange the hens on top.