Grilled Cornish Hens with Sun-Dried-Tomato Pesto

Since the tomato pesto here is made in a processor or blender, you have to make more than the small quantity needed. Use leftover pesto later in the week on grilled vegetables or fish. It's also a delicious addition to sandwiches, not to mention pasta.Plus: More Grilling Recipes and Tips

Grilled Cornish Hens with Sun-Dried-Tomato Pesto
Photo: © Melanie Acevedo
Total Time:
30 mins


  • 2/3 cup reconstituted sun-dried tomatoes, or sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained; see Note

  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped

  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • 1/2 cup olive oil

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


  1. Light the grill. In a food processor or blender, mince the tomatoes and garlic with the Parmesan, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. With the machine running, add the oil in a thin stream and continue whirring until the ingredients are well mixed.

  2. With your fingers, loosen the skin from the breast meat of each hen, leaving the skin around the edge attached. For each half hen, spread 1 tablespoon of pesto under the skin and 1 tablespoon over it. Cook the hens over moderate heat, skin-side down, for 12 minutes. Turn the hens and cook until just done, about 12 minutes longer.


Reconstituting Sun-Dried Tomatoes In a small pan, bring enough water to a boil to cover the dried tomatoes. Add the tomatoes, then remove from the heat and let them steep in the hot water for about 5 minutes. Drain.

Serve With

Creamy polenta topped with a dollop of the extra pesto will be perfect with the hens. Also, since the grill is already hot, you might want to throw on some vegetables—such as peppers, zucchini or asparagus.

Suggested Pairing

For this grilled dish, with its smoke, salt, and acidity (from tomatoes), choose a wine that's simple and refreshing. Among the many options are Italian red wines with good acidity such as Chianti Classico or Dolcetto.

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