Roasted Cornish Hens with Breadcrumb Salsa

Roasted Cornish Hens with Breadcrumb Salsa

We used to do a salsa just like this at Chez Panisse and serve it with everything from grilled rib eye steaks to salmon to roasted pork loin. The success of the dish depends upon the best-quality homemade French or Italian coarse-textured bread crumbs; you simply can’t use store-bought bread crumbs. To toast the crumbs, place them on a baking sheet in a 350°F (175°C) oven, turning occasionally, until done, 10 to 15 minutes.–Joanne Weir

Roasted Cornish Hens with Breadcrumb Salsa

  • Quick Glance
  • 20 M
  • 50 M
  • Serves 6
Print RecipeBuy the Weir Cooking in the City cookbook

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Ingredients

  • 6 Cornish hens, halved (1 to 1 1/2 pounds each)
  • 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup toasted coarse bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 scallion, white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • 2 anchovy fillets, soaked in cold water for 2 minutes, patted dry, and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon capers, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest, preferably organic
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped rosemary leaves

Directions

  • 1. Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C).
  • 2. Arrange the hen halves in a single layer, skin side up, on a baking sheet. Brush the skin with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • 3. Roast the hens until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 170°F (76°C), 30 to 35 minutes.
  • 4. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk the vinegar and remaining 6 tablespoons olive oil together. Add the bread crumbs, parsley, scallion, anchovies, capers, lemon zest, garlic thyme, and rosemary and toss together. Season with salt and pepper.
  • 5. Remove the hens to a platter, top with the toasted bread crumb mixture, and serve immediately.

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Recipe Testers Reviews

The last time I fooled around with Cornish game hens was a decade ago. I swore a blood oath it was my last foray into that particular culinary territory. There’s a good story there, which I’ll save for another time. I noticed our supermarket now has fresh game hens that look a lot more appetizing than the old frozen solid versions that were ubiquitous in most grocery stores’ deep, deep freeze section. Preparation of the hens themselves was plain and basic. The salsa transformed them. The way it interacted with the roasted hens reminded me of the way gremolata changes the flavor of osso buco. While I am not an anchovy aficionado, I’ve learned that they can subtly flavor certain dishes in such a way that a person might not be able to pick out their presence, but their absence would be missed. My husband, for example, loved the salsa, but was quite surprised to learn it contained anchovies. I would fix the salsa again to serve with grilled steaks or salmon, as suggested by the author.

I didn’t expect to like this so much. It seemed like just roast hens with a topping. But what a topping. Roasting the hens couldn’t have been easier. It was also a cinch to toss together the topping. As soon as I topped the hot roasted hens with the bread crumbs the aromas sprang to life. Each bite was a combination of crispy, juicy hen and savory, herby topping. A simple weeknight dinner made special.

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