Oven Roasted Game Hens with Pan Gravy and Wild Rice and Mushroom Dressing

There are dishes that seem to follow the ebb and flow of popularity as time goes by.  One such dish is the humble Cornish game hen.  I remember the 60’s well… a time when ordering a game hen at a fine restaurant was rather a posh thing to do, especially because of the wonderful presentation.  It was a time when you served your guests a lovely game hen for a special occasion dinner… and, if I remember correctly, it was always served with an orange sauce!  That insignificant little bird slowly slid into obscurity… until now!  I recently placed two packages of two birds each into my shopping cart at a local market, one of those “buy one, get one free” promotions… and am so pleased that I did.  As we thought of ways in which to prepare them my first thought was that we were absolutely not going to make an orange sauce and use it as the primary flavor component… that would be far too stereotypical, as well as uncreative!  Instead, we oven roasted the birds utilizing the same combination of ingredients that we slather over and in a chicken when we prepare it for the rotisserie, namely, our seasoned meat rub, lots of garlic in oil and fresh lemon.  For additional flavor during roasting I added a bouquet garni of fresh thyme and sage to the cavity.  The pan juices made an exquisite gravy… and the complementary dressing of wild rice, fresh herbs and earthy mushrooms made for a mouth-watering meal that was pure satisfaction!

Oven Roasted Game Hens with Pan Gravy and Wild Rice and Mushroom Dressing


 For the dressing bring a medium-sized saucepan of salted water to a boil and add:

  • 1 C wild rice

Return to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook the rice for 35 – 40 minutes.  Pour through a sieve and cool with running cold water.  Allow to drain well.  Meanwhile, place in a large bowl:

  • 2 C dried bread cubes, 1/4″ – 1/2″ pieces


To a heavy skillet over moderate heat add:

  • 3 – 4 T unsalted butter

When the butter has melted add:

  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1/2 medium white onion, chopped

Sauté until softened and beginning to take on color.  Add:

  • 3 – 4 whole peeled garlic cloves, microplaned
  • 2 large shiitake mushrooms. coarsely chopped
  • 4 oz crimini mushrooms, coarsely chopped



  • 1-1/2 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp minced chervil
  • 1 tsp minced fresh sage

Continue to sauté until the mushrooms have released their moisture and are cooked.  Transfer this mixture to the bowl with the bread crumbs.  Add:

  • the reserved wild rice

Mix well:


Whisk together:

  • 1-1/2 C low sodium chicken stock
  • 2 large eggs

Add to the dressing and mix well to combine.  Allow to rest for 30 minutes so that the majority of the stock will be absorbed by the bread.  Meanwhile, prepare the game hens and preheat the oven to 350°.

Rinse in cool running water and pat dry with paper towels:

  • 2 Cornish game hens

Dust the cavity of each with:

  • All Purpose Meat Rub

Add to each:

  • 1 generous tsp ground garlic in oil

Insert into each cavity:

  • a fresh lemon wedge
  • bouquet garni of fresh thyme and fresh sage


 Truss the hens.

Chef’s Note:  Truss without string!  Using a sharp paring knife cut a slit high in the loose skin surrounding the cavity:


Draw the opposing leg through the slit:


Cut a slit as high as possible on the opposite side and draw the other leg through:



Coat the hens generously with the garlic-infused oil from the jar of garlic in oil and dust on all sides with:

  • All Purpose Meat Rub

Place the birds on a rack in a shallow roasting pan:


Transfer the dressing to a buttered baking dish, cover and place it and the roasting pan with the game hens into the preheated 350° oven.  Cooking time is approximately 1 hour.  When the birds are done transfer them to a cutting board and tent with foil.  Deglaze the pan with:

  • a splash or two of dry white wine


To make a roux for the pan gravy melt in a medium saucepan over moderately high heat:

  • 2-1/2 – 3 T unsalted butter


  • 4 T flour


Cook, stirring constantly, until the roux takes on the color of a pecan shell:



Add the pan juices to the roux carefully!  Initially add approximately 1/2 cup and incorporate well. Add the remaining pan juices.  If necessary, for consistency add:

  • hot chicken stock

Check for seasonings and adjust, if necessary, with:

  • salt and white pepper

We’ve discovered that half a bird makes more than an adequate serving, so this recipe will easily satisfy four hungry diners!  Generously nap the hens with the pan gravy, serve up a generous portion of fragrant wild rice and mushroom dressing and accompany with your choice of fresh vegetable or salad.  After the first bite you’ll be wondering why you’ve not prepared and served these delectable hens more often.  They are also quite wonderful roasted atop a selection of garden root vegetables.  The juices from the birds flavor the vegetables while they roast… another wonderful meal.  Bon Appetit!



©2011 Via Aurea Designs, Inc., All Rights Reserved


Tags: ,

Categories: Chicken, Dressing & Stuffing

Author:Steve Meyer & Dayton Azevedo

Food and fine cooking have been our passion for many years, fueled by the year-around abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables, poultry and meats, as well as aromatic spices and herbs readily available to us here in the San Francisco Bay Area, making adventuresome, creative and delicious 5-star cooking a reality in our kitchen. Our aim is to make it yours as well by utilizing our step by step instructions and serial photographs. Bon Appetit from our kitchen to yours...!


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