Elegant Apple Cider Brined Cornish Hens with hints of honey, rosemary, and citrus are the perfect entrée for your holiday menu when you’re cooking for two. An intimate dinner full of fall flavors that’s portion controlled for a two-person meal!
Cornish Hens instead of turkey!
My husband and I have been dining on Cornish hens as our holiday main course for the last few years since our boys left home. While we LOVE turkey, it means investing time and effort, only to end up with more leftovers than we really want. Cornish hens are simply a small breed of chicken which means there is nothing scary or intimidating about making them! Can you guess the key to recipes like these Apple Cider Brined Cornish Hens? Hint – it’s in the name! If you said brine – ding ding ding – you REALLY need to make this recipe!
Tips for the perfect two-person meal:
Recipes like this and my Sweet Chipotle Cornish Hens are festive and perfectly portioned for an intimate, two-person holiday meal. Not to mention they are easy to roast in the oven along with vegetables for our sides like my Sausage Stuffing Acorn Squash. You definitely can’t do that with a full turkey! I like to butterfly the birds or, in this case, cut them in half for more even cooking. To cut the hens in half, place them breast side up on a cutting board. Use a large chef’s knife to carefully cut all the way through the bird. They are small and not difficult to cut. One half is gong to end up with the backbone. You want to cut that off and discard it.
The flavorful Apple Cider Brine makes the meal!
Since the brine brings so much flavor to these birds, I like to keep any sauces or glazes really simple. In this case, I combined honey and apple to brush on these Apple Cider Brined Cornish Hens during the last minutes of roasting. You can also place the hens under the broiler to get that extra crispy skin we all love!
- 2 Cornish hens, cleaned and cut in half
- 2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and pepper
- 6 cups apple cider
- 1/4 cup honey
- 3 tbsp kosher salt
- 3 tbsp cider vinegar
- Juice of 2 large oranges, approximately 1/2 cup
- 3 large sprigs rosemary
- 3 whole cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup apple cider
- 1/4 cup honey
- In a large saucepan or stockpot, combine all brine ingredients. Brine to a low boil, stir until salt dissolves. Let brine cool.
- Place hens in a large resealable plastic bag, pour brine over hens. Refrigerate 2-3 hours.
- Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a large baking sheet with foil, set aside.
- Remove hens from brine, pat dry. Place cut side down on baking tray.
- Rub hens with oil, generously salt and pepper.
- Roast hens for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F, continue roasting an additional 25-30 minutes or until internal temperature is 160°F.
- Combine honey and apple cider, stir until dissolved.
- Brush hens with glaze several times during last 15 minutes of cooking.
- Once done, let rest at least 5 minutes before serving. Brush with glaze and serve warm.
Home Chef Tip: For extra crispy skin brush hens with glaze, then place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes. Watch carefully so they don't burn.
We hope you enjoy this festive Apple Cider Brined Cornish Hens recipe from SoFabFood Home Chef, Loriann from Thyme for Cocktails. If you love this simple recipe and you’re planning an intimate dinner for two this holiday season, be sure to visit our Dinner Section for more like it. For daily recipe inspiration, subscribe to our newsletter, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Pinterest. Enjoy!