Sometimes its nice to serve something a little different for Christmas Eve dinner. One year, when our children were younger and not as picky at mealtimes, we chose not to make a traditional turkey or ham for dinner. Instead we had this special treat! We decided to roast individual Cornish hens, which the kids said were little turkeys. This way each person would have their own bird and there would hopefully be less waste. The other thing the children felt was special about this choice of poultry, was they would each have their own wish-bone.
First we chose our frozen birds. Its not unusual to find Cornish hens at discounted prices for pieces missing, mostly a leg or wing. That year we decided to purchase whole hens. One of the nice things about these hens, thawing is much quicker than a turkey. The preparation time was significantly less. We decided to stuff them, which increases the roasting time, but is still quicker than it would be for a turkey.
We made a bowl of our favorite turkey stuffing, using multi grain & Italian bread crumbs, chopped onions & celery, fresh pork sausage, browned and well drained, along with some fresh sage and parsley, then added a touch of salt and pepper. Approximately a half a cup of chicken broth was poured into it and was then tossed to coat the bread crumbs. We also added some chopped pecan pieces, some raisins and dried cranberries. Then the hens were loosely stuffed with this mixture , the legs tied together and placed in a aluminum foil lined roasting pan, breast down (you turn them over when basting) ready to be placed in the oven at 350 degrees or into the refrigerator until you are ready to roast them. Be sure to put foil caps on their little legs and tuck in their wings. Or, you can put them into the a cooking bag just like you would a turkey. We prepared a homemade glaze for them. Using orange marmalade, honey, some lemon juice and melted butter, we soon had a very tasty topping for basting the hens, after they had started to brown and reached the proper internal temperature.
My husband is very handy in the kitchen and loves to cook. He made homemade egg noodles in seasoned chicken broth. Also a green bean casserole, with wild rice. Using a one pound package of frozen green beans, a can of mushroom soup, 2 cups prepared wild rice, which were mixed together and baked for 30 minutes or until browned and bubbly at 350 degrees (same as the hens). We also had hot pull apart bread which is a family favorite, a relish tray, and homemade cherry cheesecake with whipped cream topping. Since it was on Christmas Eve, we also served a non-alcoholic sparkling grape juice. We buy both pink and white and serve the children in regular wine glasses. We also like to use our good china for these special occasions.
It turned out to be a very memorable Christmas Eve Dinner, one the children enjoy with their own families every so often. We found the Cornish hens work well for other holidays as well, like Easter, Thanksgiving or New Year’s. One of the best things about them is the quick preparation time, you can stuff as few or as many as you need and usually have room in the oven for the rest of the meal.