Roast Cornish Hens

For a holiday dinner, instead of the usual turkey, how about a Cornish hen roast? The warming spices in this treat will be a pleasant compliment to Christmas cheer. Here you have such staples as cumin and coriander to add an exotic twist to a classic dish. The hens are cooked in a glaze of honey, orange and ginger; then served over couscous. You family, friends and acquaintances will marvel at your ingenuity.


1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 cup fresh orange juice
1/4-inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 basil leaf, plus 1 tablespoon chopped
2 tablespoons honey
4 Cornish hens
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
2-3 cups cooked couscous
2 tablespoons melted butter

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. First, make the glaze: combine cumin, coriander, orange juice, ginger, orange zest, garlic, and basil leaf in a small pot or pan. Simmer over medium-high heat until reduced by half, about 5-7 minutes.
3. Discard garlic and stir in honey. Reduce heat and simmer gently about 2 minutes more.
4. Meanwhile, rub hens all over with oil, salt, pepper, oregano, and chopped basil. Place hens, breast side up, in a roasting pan (I prefer cast-iron) and place in oven.
5. Roast hens until skins begin to crisp, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and generously brush with warm glaze. Return to oven and continue to roast until meat is just cooked through, about 25 minutes. Remove from oven and generously brush with glaze again, Return to oven and roast until glaze browns, about 3 minutes.
4. While hens are roasting, cooked couscous (according to package directions). When done, place in a bowl and toss with melted butter. Serve with each hen atop a mound of hot couscous.
    Yield: 4 servings.