Who needs a giant turkey for Thanksgiving? These Buttermilk Brined Roasted Cornish Game Hens are the perfect size for an intimate gathering!
Thanksgiving may also be known as “Turkey Day” but I’m here to squash that idea. If you’re going to be having a small intimate gathering for Thanksgiving, there’s no reason to bother with making a huge turkey for just a few people.
My solution is either a classic roast chicken or these Buttermilk Brined Roasted Cornish Game Hens!
I think the first time I had a Cornish hen was at the Dixie Stampede in Gatlinburg, TN. I was 16 I think and I literally couldn’t stop thinking about my tiny personal chicken for many days.
It was juicy, tender, and not at all bland like most of the roasted chickens I’d had in the past.
I need to make a special trip back to try and recreate that exact bird, but this version is pretty damn good if you ask me. The buttermilk and orange brine is the first key to an ultra-moist and flavorful chicken. I first saw the technique thanks to Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat.
Have you seen her new show on Netflix? It’s absolute gold. I literally feel like I can taste the food as speaks. She’s a goddess. I always like to brine my turkey as well, but it’s SUCH a hassle.
You have to find a container big enough to fit the turkey and the brine, then clear enough room in your fridge to house that giant container. It’s a mess. But, with Cornish hens, you don’t have that problem!
Even if you have a big Thanksgiving planned with your whole family, I highly recommend making these for Friendsgiving or even a pre-holiday date night!
- 2 Cornish hens
- 3 cups buttermilk
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- Juice of 1/2 an orange
- 1/2 an orange, quartered
- fresh thyme
- fresh rosemary
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1 clove of garlic, finely minced
- kosher salt
- freshly ground pepper
- Rinse the Cornish hens under cool water. Pat dry with paper towels, set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, salt, paprika, garlic powder, and orange juice.
- Place the hen's in a large food storage bag and cover the buttermilk mixture. Place in a dish to prevent leaks and place in the refrigerator. Let the hens brine for at least 3 hours, or overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. Take the hens out of the brine and lightly pat dry with paper towels. Insert a quarter of an orange and a few sprigs of rosemary and thyme inside the cavities of the bird. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine. Combine the softened butter with the garlic and rub liberally all over the birds, season generously with salt and pepper.
- Place in a roasting pan.
- Place in the middle rack of the oven. Roast the hens for 50 minutes to 1 hour; until the skin is golden and the internal temperature in the thickest part of the thigh is about 165°F