This recipe comes from one of Mario Batali’s cookbooks that I was paging through over the summer . I can’t recall the name of it, but I did manage to take a picture of this recipe to work off of. The original recipe calls for orange zest instead of lemon zest, but I couldn’t find any decent oranges. Also it calls for 6 game hens, which seems like quite a lot. I made it with two, though you could probably add a third without any hassle. I had to cook the birds for about ten minutes longer than the recipe calls for, probably due to the hens not being 100% defrosted when I started. The recipe below contains the cooking times as written.
2 or 3 cornish game hens
Seeds of 1 large pomegranate
1 cup sweet marsala
1 tablespoon fresh mint
6 cornish game hens
8 tablespoons butter (divided)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 fresh sage leaves
Zest of ½ lemon
In a bowl, cover the pomegranate seeds with the marsala. Mix in the chopped mint. Cover, and let sit for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Remove the wishbone from each of the hens (optional, but it makes it easier to split them in half when serving), and season with salt and pepper, including inside the cavity. Drain the pomegranate seeds, reserving the marsala for later. Stuff the cavities with half the pomegranate seeds, reserving the rest. Truss the birds with kitchen twine.
Heat a large oven-proof skillet over medium high. Add 2 tablespoons of butter, and the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then toss in 2 of the sage leaves for about 30 seconds. Place the birds in the pan, browning on all sides (should take about 7 minutes altogether). Add the remaining pomegranate seeds and sage leaves to the pan.
Transfer the skillet to the oven, and roast for 7 minutes. Remove the pan, and drizzle on ¼ cup of the reserved marsala, dot the birds with 2 tbsp butter, and baste on some of the pan juices. Return the pan to the oven for another 10 minutes, or until the juices in the bird’s thigh run clear.
While the birds are cooking, slice the lemon zest into ¼” strips. Heat a small saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water in it, and whisk in the remaining butter 1 tablespoon at a time to emulsify. Add the lemon zest. Keep the mixture warm until ready to serve.
To serve the birds, split them in half down the middle, spoon on some of the pan juices and pomegranate seeds over top. Serve with roasted potatoes and vegetables, and spoon some of the butter sauce over everything.