Grilled Cornish Hens with Rice and Sicilian Butter

The traditional combination of olives, anchovies, and oranges shows up here in a flavored butter that adds a special richness and intensity to hens hot off the grill. Make a double batch and keep the extra in your freezer to use at a moment's notice.Plus: More Grilling Recipes and Tips

Grilled Cornish Hens with Rice and Sicilian Butter
Photo: © Melanie Acevedo
Total Time:
30 mins


  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

  • 1/3 cup black olives, such as Kalamata, halved and pitted

  • 2 teaspoons anchovy paste

  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest (from about 1 navel orange)

  • 2 teaspoons orange juice

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

  • 2 Cornish hens (about 1 1/4 pounds each), halved

  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil

  • Boiled or steamed rice, for serving


  1. Light the grill. In a food processor, puree the butter and olives with the anchovy paste, orange zest, orange juice, garlic, and pepper. With a rubber spatula, scrape the butter into a small bowl and refrigerate.

  2. Rub the hens with oil and cook over moderate heat for 12 minutes. Turn and cook until just done, about 12 minutes longer.

  3. Remove the hens from the grill and serve with the rice. Top each serving with 2 tablespoons of the flavored butter, letting the butter melt over both the hen and the rice.

Serve With

You might grill some eggplant slices and drizzle them with balsamic vinegar to go with these hens. Sautéed broccoli rabe with garlic and a sprinkling of Parmesan would also match the Italian mood.

Suggested Pairing

The saltiness of olives and anchovies can make the wrong wine appear coarse and too alcoholic. A Rosé is the perfect choice. If you can find one from Sicily, buy it. If not, pick a bottle from Navarre in Spain or from the south of France.

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