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These Cheesy Roasted Cornish Game Hens are stuffed with cheesy Rice-A-Roni stuffing and roasted until crisp and juicy
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You know in movies where everyone sits down to a fancy dinner and the server brings out these cute little individual birds? Those are Cornish game hens. These cheesy roasted Cornish game hens are easy to make and so much fun to eat. That is, if you like having your individual bird to pick at. Which I do.
What is a Cornish Game Hen?
A Cornish game hen is a type of hybrid chicken. It is not a game bird, nor is it a hen by definition (can be male or female). They are chickens that grow large breasts very quickly, in fewer than 5 weeks, enabling them to be slaughtered earlier.
That is how we get the small, personal sized bird we are all used to seeing at the dinner table. I love to work with these “hens” as it can be fun to personalize each bird, especially if you are entertaining.
Brining the Hens
To get deliciously juicy meat, we first brine the birds. Brining adds an extra boost of flavor to these cheesy roasted Cornish game hens and keeps the birds moist while roasting.
Because these Cornish game hens consist mainly of breast meat, keeping it moist while roasting is very important. I always recommend brining.
So how do we brine? Easy. Add all the brine ingredients to a large pot and bring to a boil. Then you want to let the brine cool fully before adding your birds. I mean, we’re not trying to cook them in the brine.
I recommend making the brine the day before so you’re not sitting around twiddling your thumbs (do people really twiddle thumbs?) waiting for the brine to cool. Once it’s cool, add the birds and let sit for 2 hours. Because Cornish game hens are relatively small, we don’t want to leave them in the brine too long or they will be too salty.
Making the Stuffing
Any kind of stuffing is delicious in these birds. BUT, because we are making cheesy roasted Cornish game hens, we are going to stuff them with this super easy and delicious cheesy Rice-A-Roni stuffing. It’s literally one of the easiest things you will ever make.
Take a box of Chicken Rice-A-Roni and make it according to the package instructions. Then add the cheeses and mix until all the cheese has melted. And that’s it. Seriously. That’s it.
Roasting the Birds
Finally we roast the birds. First preheat the oven to 350 degrees. We are going to start out with a low heat roast then crank up the temperature at the end to crisp every thing up. Place the hens on a roasting rack (I just bought this rack and LOVE it) over a foil lined baking sheet. If you don’t use foil, the pan is a bitch to clean.
Rub the duck fat over both sides of the birds. I think you all know how much I love using duck fat. It provides such a wonderful flavor and helps to crisp the skin so nicely. I love it. Whoever came up with the idea to use duck fat is a genius. A GENIUS I say.
Check out these other recipes using duck fat:
Once the birds are coated with duck fat, gently separate the skin from the meat (see below). Slide one 1/4 of a tablespoon of butter in one side, and 1/4 in the other side. Do the same with the other bird. I don’t have to explain what butter does to the meat. I mean, butter makes everything better.
Now we season the birds on both sides with the Cajun seasoning and the Nacho Cheddar popcorn seasoning. Then stuff the birds with the cheesy Rice-A-Roni stuffing. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine and roast, breast side up.
Roast for 45 minutes then turn the temperature up to 450 degrees. Roast for another 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes. The birds will finish cooking while they are resting.
Now you have the perfect individual meal to serve for dinner parties, or just a nice family dinner. And the best part? You can totally just eat these with your hands. Stuffing and all. Picture: Fancy dinner party, birds arrive, and you roll up your sleeves and dig in. Party foul or fun time? Ok, or just use a knife and fork, but what fun is that?
Like this recipe? Check out some of these other classic favorites:
Stuffed Cornish Hen Recipe
For the birds:
For the Brine:
- Bring ingredients to a boil and remove from heat.
- Let cool fully and add the birds. Let brine for 2-4 hours (at LEAST 2 hours).
Prepare the Birds:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Rub the duck fat on both sides of the hens.
- Gently separate skin from the bird and slide a pat of butter under the skin as shown in the pictures in the post above.
- Season both sides with the Cajun season and nacho cheddar popcorn seasoning.
- Stuff with the cheesy rice stuffing (see below).
- Roast for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. At the 30 minute mark, remove the foil so the hens can start to brown.
- After 45 minutes, increase heat to 450 degrees and cook 15 minutes, or until skin is golden brown and internal temperature is 160 degrees. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes.
Cheesy Rice Stuffing
- Cook the Rice-A-Roni according to the package.
- Once cooked, stir in the cheeses until melted. Set aside until ready to use.
- Make the brine the day before so it is fully cooled when adding the hens;
- Use a thermometer to check the internal temperature of the cornish hens (I use a Thermapen, which I LOVE);
- Make sure the temperature of the stuffing reads at least 165 degrees as well;
- Covering the hens for the first 30 minutes helps prevent them from getting too dark while roasting;
- Substitute olive oil, coconut oil, bacon grease or lard for the duck fat. I personally prefer duck fat, but any of these will work;
- To save time, you can make the rice stuffing ahead of time and store in the fridge for up to 3 days. Add a touch of milk when reheating and stir it in.