• Prep Time:
  • Cooking Time:
  • Serves: 4 Servings

Tarragon Game Hens

  • Recipe Submitted by on

Category: Poultry

 Ingredients List

  • 2 Cornish game hens
  • 6 tb Butter, at room
  • -temperature
  • 2 tb Lemon juice
  • 2 tb Tarragon, dried
  • -(or about 1 T
  • -fresh tarragon)
  • 1/8 ts Salt


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Prepare the hens by rinsing thoroughly,
checking for pin feathers and patting dry. Be sure to remove yellow fat
found at the cavity opening.

Gently separate the skin from the flesh by sliding your fingers between and
tearing the connecting membrane. It is easiest to begin at the cavity
opening and work up the breast. Leave skin attached at the lower two-thirds
of the wings and base of the legs. Work carefully over the breastbone area
so as not to tear the skin which is firmly attached at this point.

Thoroughly blend the butter, lemon juice, tarragon and salt. If the butter
is not soft, it will be difficult to incorporate the lemon juice.

Using your fingers, spread a layer of herb butter under the loosened skin
of each hen. Spread a small amount on the skin. Tuck wings under the back
of the hen and set each hen on its side, breast down on a roasting rack
over a roasting pan.

Roast for 15 minutes, then turn hens to other side. Roast for another 15
minutes, then set hens on their backs with breast up and roast for a final
15 minutes (total cooking time about 45 minutes). Each time the hens are
turned, baste by spooning pan juices over the bird. Hens are fully cooked
when juices run clear and drumstick moves easily in its socket.

Remove birds to a warm platter and let sit for 5 minutes. Reduce pan juices
to a thin glaze consistency over high heat and serve as a sauce. (You may
want to flavor the pan juices with a little dry white wine.) Quarter birds
before serving. Each bird should serve two people.


* Cornish game hens basted in tarragon butter This method of "basting"
fowl by spreading an herb butter under the skin infuses the meat with the
flavor of the herbs which usually is kept on the skin with normal external

* This basting method can also be used when grilling, either over a
barbecue or in the broiler. I prefer barbecuing to oven roasting in the
summer (I tend to roast along with the birds) and prepare the birds a
little differently in this case. Rather than grilling whole, before the
butter is spread under the skin, each bird is split along the spine using a
sharp heavy knife. This is quite easy since the spine and ribs are easily
cut with moderately heavy pressure and rocking motion on the knife blade. I
then spread the bird, breast up, and crack the breast bone to flatten with
a sharp blow on the breast with the heel of my hand. The wings are tucked
under themselves and the legs and thighs left loose. The birds can be
cooked ahead of time and taken on a picnic or prepped in advance and
grilled at the picnic.

* Margarine may be substituted for the butter without major noticeable
effects on the flavor.

* In the summer, I like to serve either a tabbouleh or Italian tomato
salad (quartered RIPE tomatoes sprinkled with chopped fresh basil and
drizzled with olive oil) and a white zinfadel.

* Since I like herb butters with all kinds of fish and fowl and have an
herb garden, I generally make up 2 cups or more of herb butter at a time,
using a food processor to assure thorough blending. The butter keeps well
in the fridge for 2-3 weeks.

: Difficulty: moderate.
: Time: 15 minutes preparation, 45 minutes cooking.
: Precision: approximate measurement OK.

: Pamela McGarvey
: UCLA Comprehensive Epilepsy Program, Los Angeles, California
: {hao,sdcrdcf}!cepu!pam

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