Practical but elegant still, these hens are butterflied and thickly coated with a sweet & tart glaze. Cornish hens come in different sizes. Small ones usually weigh 1 to 1 1/4 pounds and are a good size for an individual serving. Larger ones weigh 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds and are big enough to cut in half to serve 2 people. I always roast the hens a day before serving. When they are cold, it is easy to remove the small rib and back bones to make them easier to eat.
4 Cornish hens (1 1/2 to 1 3/4 lbs. each) or 8 Cornish hens (1 to 1 1/4 lbs. each), at room temperature
Glaze and Sauce
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons dry mustard
1/3 cup orange marmalade
3/4 cup catsup
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 can (16 oz.) tart red cherries
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
Watercress or parsley
1. Arrange rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 425°.
2. To spatchcock hens, place them on a cutting board breast side down. Using poultry or kitchen shears cut down one side of the backbone, starting from the front and cutting through to the back. Cut down other side of the backbone so you can remove the entire bone. Make a small slit down the center of the breastbone so the hens will lay flat. Line a shallow roasting pan with a double thickness of heavy-duty foil. Spray the foil and place hens on it skin-side up. Salt and pepper both sides of hens.
3. To make glaze: In a small bowl, stir together mustard, marmalade, catsup and 1 tablespoon of the cherry juice. Set aside 1/2 glaze cup for sauce. With a brush, spread half the glaze over hens.
4. Bake at 425° for 35 to 40 minutes, basting with remaining glaze after 15 minutes. The hens should be very well browned with some very dark, almost black areas. Hens are done when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165° and the juices run clear. Watch carefully the last 5 minutes; they burn quickly.
MAKE AHEAD: The hens may be refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature and reheat at 425° for 10 to 15 minutes or until heated through.
5. While hens bake, make sauce: Drain cherry juice into a medium saucepan. Stir reserved 1/2 cup glaze into juice. Marinate 1 cup cherries in balsamic for 10 minutes; reserve remaining cherries for another use. Drain balsamic into juice. Whisk in cornstarch until it is dissolved. Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until sauce comes to a boil and thickens. Stir in cherries.
MAKE AHEAD: The sauce may be refrigerated overnight. Reheat before serving in microwave or on stove. If too thick, thin with a little orange juice.
6. If desired, garnish hens with orange slices and greens. Spoon a small amount of sauce over hens and pass remainder.
Makes 8 servings.