Cornish Hens with Pomegranate and Lemon

Pomegranate seeds give Matthew Kenney's Cornish hens a burst of tartness. Allow time for the hens to marinate overnight.

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  • Servings: 4

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  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Zest of 1 lemon, cut into thin strips
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
  • Four 1 1/4-pound Cornish hens, legs tied together with kitchen string
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon minced onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1/3 cup pomegranate seeds (see Note)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
  • 2 tablespoons honey

How to make this recipe

  1. Combine the oil, lemon zest and 1/2 teaspoon of the chile powder in a small bowl. Put 2 Cornish hens in each of 2 large resealable plastic bags. Add half of the marinade to each bag, seal the bags and rub the marinade all over the hens. Refrigerate overnight.

  2. Preheat the oven to 350°. Spread the pine nuts on a baking sheet and toast for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the pine nuts are lightly browned.

  3. Raise the oven temperature to 375°. Remove the hens from the bags, scraping off any excess marinade; pour the marinade into a bowl. Season the hens inside and out with salt and black pepper.

  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of the marinade in a heavy skillet. Add 2 of the hens and cook over high heat, turning once, until golden and crisp, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the hens to a large roasting pan, breast side up. Repeat with 1 more tablespoon of the marinade and the remaining hens; set the skillet aside.

  5. Roast the hens for about 50 minutes, or until the juices run clear when the thighs are pierced with a knife. Transfer the hens to a platter and let rest for 15 minutes. Pour the pan juices into a bowl and skim off the fat.

  6. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the skillet and set it over moderately high heat. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook just until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the pomegranate seeds, lemon juice, pine nuts, cumin, coriander, cayenne and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of chile powder. Cook, scraping up any browned bits, until the liquid is nearly evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock and honey and bring to a boil. Cook until reduced to 3/4 cup, about 12 minutes. Add the reserved pan juices. Transfer the hens to plates, spoon the sauce on top and serve.


To remove the seeds from a pomegranate, cut off the crown of the fruit. Score the skin in quarters and transfer the fruit to a bowl of cold water. Working in the water, peel off the skin and remove the seeds from the membranes; discard the skin and membranes as you go. Drain the seeds.

Suggested Pairing

Look for a juicy Beaujolais-Villages wine, which enhances the taste of the game hens without overpowering the garnish.

Contributed By Photo © Matthew Hranek Published February 1998

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