Cornish Hens

Now that's a showstopper! This vintage roasted Cornish Hens recipe comes from an heirloom book of our impeccable mains, and it's stood the test of time as an ever-impressive dinner party entrée. Sweet meets savory in this poultry dish, where the hens star and orange rice plays the supporting role. Basting the hens twice throughout the cooking process keeps the birds moist, as hens are leaner and can dry out more easily than chicken.Southerners know that saving your pan drippings is critical to make flavor-packed gravy, and in this dish, roasting the green grapes beneath the hens ensures the fruit will bask in those rich pan drippings. Adding orange juice in with the boiling water used to cook the rice helps the grains absorb all that orange flavor, ensuring a consistent, yet subtle orange tang throughout the dish. The sweetness of the green grapes and white wine is the perfect accompaniment to these hens and orange rice.

Cornish Hens
Photo: Southern Living
Hands On Time:
20 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 26 mins
6 servings


Cornish Hens

  • 2 cups seedless green grapes

  • 6 (1 1/2-lb.) Cornish hens

  • ¼ cup butter, melted

  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

  • 1 ⅓ cups sweet white wine

  • ½ cup fresh orange juice

  • 1 cup apple jelly

  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt, divided

  • ½ teaspoon pepper

Orange Rice

  • ¼ cup butter

  • 1 ½ cups finely chopped celery and leaves

  • ½ cup chopped onion

  • ¾ cup fresh orange juice

  • 1 ½ cups uncooked long-grain rice

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 tablespoon orange zest


  1. Prepare Cornish Hens: Preheat oven to 450°. Place grapes in a lightly greased large roasting pan. Rinse hens; pat dry. Brown 3 hens in 2 Tbsp. melted butter in a large skillet over medium heat 4 minutes on each side. Place hens on top of grapes in roasting pan. Repeat procedure with remaining 3 hens and 2 Tbsp. butter, reserving 1 Tbsp. drippings in skillet. Whisk flour into drippings until smooth. Gradually whisk in wine, 1⁄2 cup orange juice, apple jelly, and 1 tsp. salt. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, 3 minutes or until jelly melts and sauce is reduced to 2 cups. Remove from heat, and reserve 11⁄2 cups sauce to serve with hens.

  2. Sprinkle hens with pepper and remaining 1⁄2 tsp. salt; brush with 1⁄4 cup remaining sauce. Bake at 450° on bottom oven rack for 40 minutes or until hens are done, basting twice with 1⁄4 cup sauce each time. Cover and let stand 10 minutes before serving.

  3. Meanwhile, prepare Orange Rice: Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat; add celery and onion, and sauté 3 minutes or until tender. Stir in 21⁄4 cups water and 3⁄4 cup orange juice. Bring to a boil; stir in rice and 1⁄2 tsp. salt. Return to a boil; cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Remove from heat, and stir in orange zest; fluff with a fork.

  4. Arrange rice, grapes, and hens on a serving platter. Serve with reserved 11⁄2 cups sauce.

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