Brining your hens results in flavorful, moist birds with fall-off-the bone meat and plenty of pan juices for spooning over this one-bag supper. An extra-large roasting bag accommodates the hens and veggies all at once, plus it makes cleanup a snap. Feel free to substitute other root veggies such as rutabaga, fingerling potatoes, rainbow carrots, or golden beets, depending on your personal tastes and what looks best at your local market. —Judy Haubert
Test Kitchen Notes
This recipe was developed in partnership with If You Care. —The Editors
4 hours 30 minutes
maple syrup, plus 1/4 cup, divided
kosher salt, plus more to taste
Cornish game hens (1 to 1 1/2 pounds each)
small bunch thyme, divided
salted butter, melted
soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari)
freshly grated ginger
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
medium radishes, halved
medium carrots (use rainbow for extra color), cut into 1-inch pieces
small fennel bulbs, trimmed, halved, and sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
Combine 3 cups hot water, 1/3 cup maple syrup, and 1/3 cup kosher salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Add 3 cups ice water and stir until cool. Add the hens and 8 to 10 thyme sprigs to the brine and place a small plate directly on top of the birds to keep them submerged. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 400° F. Remove hens from the brine, pat them dry, and season with salt and pepper. Place 3 to 4 thyme sprigs in each hen cavity. Combine the remaining 1/4 cup maple syrup with the jam, melted butter, soy sauce, ginger, and salt and pepper to taste.
Toss the vegetables with the remaining thyme sprigs, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place an extra-large parchment roasting bag on a rimmed baking sheet and spread the vegetables in an even layer inside. Place the hens on top of the vegetables and brush evenly and thickly with the apricot-maple glaze. Tightly seal the bag by folding and crimping along the edges.
Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the breast of the hens (through the parchment) reads 165° F, about 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and cut through the top of the bag using kitchen shears, and pull back the parchment to expose the hens. Increase oven temperature to 550° F and return to the oven until the skin is crisped and browned, about 10 minutes more. Divide the hens and vegetables between four plates and spoon pan juices over top.