Cozy. That is the word that embodies this recipe. Also, butter. Butter is another word that embodies this recipe, but its the holidays so we won’t think about all of the butter we are about to consume. Despite the seemingly long directions, this meal is really easy to make and it will have everyone at your holiday party “Oohing” and “Ahhing” over your culinary skills.
Side note: how pretty are purple potatoes? This was the first time I had ever used them and it will definitely not be the last.
There are some steps in this recipe that will have you getting up close and personal with these game hens. One of the steps will have you actually shoving herb butter up under the skin of the game hens (see below), but I assure you it is all for good measure.
Even though this may gross some people out, it is THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP to ensure a delicious game hen. Just do it. Or make someone else do it, I don’t care. I will note that the skin of these hens is very thin and can rip easily (the skin ripped a bit in the above photo), so be careful while inserting the butter.
On the bright side, you use the same herbs for a lot the recipe components so the ingredients list seems longer than it truly is. I bought a beautiful bouquet of poultry herbs from Trader Joe’s that included all of the necessary herbs and I had a ton left over.
Another important step is to place some of the herb butter on the bottom of the Dutch oven so the bottom of the hens gets some buttery love.
Then you add some more herb butter and minced garlic on top (I told you there was a lot of butter) before placing in the oven. Don’t they look so cute though?
I paired the hens with smashed potatoes and if you’ve never made these, I HIGHLY recommend it. They get crispy, yet stay soft in the middle and it’s just the right texture to accompany the buttery hens and crisp veggies. The smashing technique is shown above, very complex and complicated (not). Take a sturdy cup and press down firmly on tender, boiled potatoes. Then brush with herb butter, of course, and garlic.
Purple Smashed Potatoes up close and personal, with garlic and herb butter.
Finished veggies. You want to keep the green beans and carrots on the firmer side so they still have a bite to them. There is nothing worse than soggy vegetables.
OK, enough photos already. Here is the recipe!
Holiday Herb Butter Roasted Game Hen Dinner
Prep time: 25 minutes | Cook time: 1 hour, 20 minutes | Serves: 4
Game Hen Ingredients:
- 2 Cornish game hens
- 4 Tbsp. butter – room temperature
- 3 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed
- 2 sprigs of rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped
- 2 tsp. finely chopped sage
- 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ½ lb. green beans, ends trimmed
- 5-6 carrots, halved or quartered length-wise (cut to same size as green beans)
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
- 2 lbs. purple potatoes
- 4 Tbsp. butter
- 1 sprig rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped
- 1 tsp. minced garlic
- ¼ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. pepper
Read all directions thoroughly so you know the timing for each part of the meal!
For the game hens:
- Preheat the oven to 375°
- Take a 4 quart Dutch oven (if you have a bigger one, just use that) and spray lightly with cooking spray.
- Combine the butter and herbs in a small bowl. Mash the butter with a fork and mix in herbs until they are incorporated evenly through the butter. Set aside.
- Separate the skin on the hens from the body with your fingers on both the back and the belly. The skin is very delicate and thin, so be careful and try not to tear it.
- Take ¼ of the herb butter and place it in the bottom of the Dutch oven in small pieces.
- Take another ¼ of the herb butter for each hen, and distribute it under the skin of the bird on both sides. It’s ok if the butter stays in chunks, it will melt nicely while the hens are cooking.
- Once the butter is in place, rub the garlic on the outside of each bird and season well with salt and pepper. Place the birds side by side in the Dutch oven and put the remaining ¼ of the herb butter on top in small pieces.
- Place in the oven, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove the lid after 30 minutes and bake for 45 more minutes uncovered. If the skin hasn’t quite crisped up on top, you can broil the hens for the last 5 minutes to get a nice brown layer on top.
For the Purple Smashed Potatoes:
- Wash the potatoes and slice any larger ones in half. Place in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and boil until fork tender.
- Drain and place the potatoes in an even layer on a greased baking sheet.
- Take the bottom of a sturdy glass/cup and smash each potato down.
- Melt the butter in the microwave and add the rosemary, garlic, salt, and pepper. Brush each potato with the butter mixture.
- Set aside until there are 25 minutes left for the hens to cook. Place potatoes in the oven and bake for 25 minutes.
For the veggies:
- Trim the green beans and slice the carrots. Coat with 2 Tbsp. of olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
- Set aside until there are 20 minutes left for the hens to cook. Place veggies in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
Following these instructions should ensure that all pieces of the meal are done at the same time. If you do choose to broil the hens for 5 minutes at the end, remove the veggies and potatoes before doing so.
Serve with a nice, Christmas-style beer or glass of red wine and enjoy with the ones you love.