Buttermilk Brined Cornish Hens
These Cornish hens are so incredibly moist and delicious and super simple to prep. Elegant enough for a dinner party but equally great for a cozy snowy weekend at home.
- 4 Cornish hens, any weight
- 6 cups buttermilk
- 4 tsp salt
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp paprika
- 4 tbsp lime juice
- Kosher salt and pepper for seasoning
- Step 1 Rinse Cornish hens and gently pat dry. Cut off the necks if you so desire (I forgot to do this last time and it looks weird in the picture! You can use kitchen shears).
- Step 2 Divide the ingredients equally in half (down through the lime juice) between two mixing bowls. Whisk together.
- Step 3 Place hens in the milk mixture, rotating them a few times to coat. Refrigerate and let the hens brine for at least 4 hours, flipping halfway through.
- Step 4 Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease two shallow baking dishes or pans. Remove Cornish hens from fridge, then discard the buttermilk. Pat the excess buttermilk off the hens (I probably could have done a better job of this, see below!) before placing on the pans.
- Step 5 If cooking with vegetables or potatoes, arrange these around the hens. Season the hens generously with salt and pepper.
- Step 6 Bake hens in the oven for about 60 minutes, until top is golden brown and vegetables are soft. Enjoy!
Somehow, I don’t think I really discovered Cornish hens until I was in my twenties. And even then, I think I only really ever ate them at restaurants. Hard to believe, I know, but it didn’t really occur to me that this was something we could master and make at home. Partially this realization has come about because I think Cornish hens are having a resurgence in popularity lately. I suddenly see them popping up more on menus and now even on the shelves in the local grocery store. When we started cooking them at home, we could only find them at the local butcher. But to make a long story short, Cornish hens have gone from being a once-in-a-blue-moon entree choice at a restaurant, to being a mainstay in our recipe archives. If you’ve read this far, I think you’ll soon see why!
I’m all about brining things these days, so when I came across a recipe for buttermilk brined hens one day, I knew I had a winner. I have tweaked the recipe some over the last few times we’ve made it and I must say, I’m pretty darn pleased with the final product. This is actually one of our go-to recipes now for entertaining, because it is so easy to prep, but still manages to impress dinner guests. Especially when you mention to them it’s buttermilk brined, that usually seals the deal. The day I photographed this hen, we roasted it with some Brussel sprouts (simply tossed with olive oil and seasoned with S&P) and it was a perfect combo. Since the weather is making a turn for the cold (a winter storm warning is already in effect here for tomorrow!), this seemed like a great day to post this recipe. So head to the store now, pick up some hens, and cook up this cozy meal for the whole family! The best part about being snowed in (besides warm fires and cocoa!) are cozy homemade meals just like this.
Here’s a few before and after pictures that will illustrate how SIMPLE this meal is to prepare. Brine, Roast, Devour… can’t get much better than that!