When I was a kid, I always thought Cornish Game Hens were one of the fanciest foods. To this day, I feel a bit guilty serving them to friends and receiving "Oohs" and "Aahs" because they are SO easy! The are just incredibly tender and juice all on their own and just need a bit of flavor to amp them up. I've been making a mustard roasted game hen for years and always thought it could use a nice sauce or condiment. I have to admit -- the mostarda bug was put in my ear by a recent trip to Panera where they have a new sandwich with a cranberry mostarda. My son has recently been into grapes so they were the most plentiful and obvious choice for a mostarda. This is obviously a quick version rather than the jellied, long-infused traditional Italian dish but it comes together with such a great depth of flavor after roasting the grapes -- hopefully you won't find the uber-traditional elements woefully missing. I finish the sauce with a splash of the game hen pan juices which is far from orthodox but I couldn't resist adding the silky meat juice at the end. I think this mostarda would work well on a range of meats, duck, goose, other game birds. Its my new go-to condiment/sauce for the fall. —meganvt01
Test Kitchen Notes
Meganvt01 has redeemed herself from years of game hen-induced guilt with this recipe, which surprised me in many wonderful ways. The rub on the guinea hens is fantastic; the strong rosemary and mustard flavors really complement the birds. I was worried that the mostarda would overwhelm them, but the wine, vinegar, cooking liquid, and three kinds of mustard temper the grapes’ sweetness to make this dish beautifully complex. Be sure to mop up the leftovers with some bread. It’s also deceptively easy -- the whole thing only took about an hour, and you’re only using two pans! —LucyS
Preheat the oven to 400° F. Liberally season the game hens (inside and out) with salt and pepper. Allow them to sit out for up to an hour to lose the chill of the fridge.
Mix the garlic, honey, whole grain mustard, olive oil, and rosemary in a bowl. Rub the mixture all over the inside and outside of the hens.
Place the hens on a roasting rack and cook for about 60 minutes (depending on the size of your bird), until an instant read thermometer in the leg/thigh registers 170 degrees (or the juices run clear). Watch your birds carefully after 40 minutes or so to ensure the skin isn't turning too dark. I covered my birds with foil for the last 15 minutes or so.
Rest the birds under a foil tent for 10 minutes before serving.
Roasted Grape Mostarda
Preheat your oven to 400° F (this can be done alongside the game hens). On a sheet pan place the grapes, shallots, rosemary, and olive oil. Season lightly with salt. Roast for 15 minutes, until the grapes have softened and the shallots have browned.
Deglaze the baking sheet with the white wine immediately, scraping up any bits of browned grape and shallot. Pour the mixture on the baking sheet into a saucepan.
Add the sugar, Champagne vinegar, mustard seed, dry mustard, and bay leaf to the grapes in the saucepan. Over medium heat, cook the mixture down until the grapes are very soft and most of the liquid has evaporated.
Off the heat, add the reserved pan juices and dijon and remove the bay leaf. Serve warm or at room temperature alongside the game hens. Crusty bread is recommended.
After spending years in school while working full time, I'm happy to finally have my evenings pursuing my other passion, cooking! I have a 4 year old boy and a husband that are both adventurous eaters and supportive tasters. I spend a good bit of my vacation travel preparation researching local and regional foods and my friends all make fun of my food obsession.
I've always been pretty confident with my techniques cooking from recipes but I am enjoying Food52's challenge of putting those techniques to work for my own versions of my favorite foods. I love to learn and the group of people that contribute to this site are a great resource.
As an Annapolis native, I love to cook with our local produce and seafood whenever possible. I try to support our community of fisherman, farmers, other food producers and chefs as much as possible.