Author: Canadian Living

This recipe is an homage to slow cooking, fine Canadian ingredients and a nod towards the 100 km diet. On a fall or winter's afternoon, I love braising so that my house is redolent that my guests know that they are in for a mouth-watering treat when they walk through the front door. Although this recipe calls for Cornish hens, chicken breasts or legs may be substituted. This dish and sauce makes a great companion with mashed potatoes or wild rice and a vegetable. Green beans with either crumbled goat cheese or toasted slivered almonds makes a great side dish. I have an excellent side dish, Shiitakes and Manitoba wild rice that I would love to submit along with the Cornish hens. However your contest only permits one entry per contestant. For a stunning presentation, plate on either a white or light coloured dish. Garnish with fresh herbs (like thyme used in the recipe or minced flat leaf parsley). This can go easily well with either a white or red wine (e.g. an oaked Chardonnay, or lighter red - both Canadian, of course).

  • Portion size 6 servings
  • Credits : Richard Burke


  • 3/8 cups maple syrup
  • 3/8 cups mustard
  • 3 tablespoons ginger julienned (cut into thin matchsticks)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons fresh thyme chopped, plus several sprigs for garnish
  • 3 1-1/2 lb cornish game hens cut into halves (ask your butcher to butterfly the hens). Chicken breasts or legs may be substituted
  • 3/8 cups butter
  • 1 cup red wine use what it being served with the meal)
  • 1 cup white wine use what it being served with the meal)
  • 3 cups orange juice preferably made from fresh oranges
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 3/4 cups dried sweetened cranberries
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice optional
  • 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar optional


Marinate Cornish hens:
1. Whisk maple syrup, mustard, ginger, pepper and 2 teaspoons of the thyme in a small bowl.
2. Coat hens (or chicken) with marinade.
3. Marinate in fridge from one hour to overnight. A longer marinade will deepen the flavour.

Braise hens:
1. Heat on medium-high a large non-stick skillet or dutch oven.
2. Add butter and then add hen halves, skin side up. Sear until deep brown, about 3 - 4 minutes. Turn, skin side down, and sear for 4 - 6 minutes
3. With hens well browned, add wine to pan to deglaze, scraping any brown bits and dissolving that into the wine. Simmer for 2 - 4 minutes, reducing wine slightly.
4. Add the orange juice, stock, zest and 1 tbsp (or a couple of sprigs) of thyme. Bring to a gentle boil and then simmer. Cover with a close fitting lid.
5. Braise hen halves until cooked through and juices run clear when pierced with fork, about 40-50 minutes. A longer, slower braise will add flavour. Baste occasionally (e.g. every 15-20 minutes)

To make sauce:
1. Remove hens from pan and tent with tin foil to keep warm.
2. Strain braising liquid and then skim to remove as much fat as possible. Use a gravy separator if you have one.
3. In a small saucepan quickly bring the braising liquid (sauce) to a boil. Reduce to approx. 2-3 cups.
4. Add 3 tbsp of cornstarch to a small bowl and whisk with 3 tbsp of water until completely dissolved (forms an even, non-lumpy slurry).
5. Once the sauce is reduced, return to a slow boil and whisk in the cornstarch so that the sauce thickens slightly.
6. Add cranberries into the sauce. Simmer for 30 seconds to a minute or until cranberries reconstitute. Taste for seasoning, add salt or pepper if necessary. If you wish a drier or more acidic gravy consider adding 1 tsp lemon juice or sherry vinegar.
7. Plate the hens and dish the sauce and cranberries over top. Garnish with sprigs of thyme or their leaves. Serve with mashed potatoes or wild rice and a vegetable. Green beans with either crumbled goat cheese or toasted slivered almonds makes a great side dish.
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Cornish Game Hen with Maple, Ginger and Cranberries