Entree/ Game

Game Hens with Tangerine Sauce

I love these little birds, they are so cute sitting on a plate.

Lovely! Is that a word that can be related to food?  I don’t know but these were beautiful.

Cool weather has come to Texas and it is making me want to cook, and what could be better than the aroma some type of poultry roasting in the oven filling the house.

What is it about those cute little cornish game hens that appeal to me? I have no idea but they look so darn cute on your plate and, hey, you get the whole thing all to yourself. Considering these little birds are normally $2.50-$3.00 each, I think this makes an economical meal and a ★★★★ recipe. Although, after eating one I feel like I have plowed the back 40. They are a lot of work to eat for so little meat. The little bitty legs and wings with an ounce of meat! This sauce and rub would be just as good on chicken breast. I wouldn’t use boneless breast and I would try to find breast with the wing attached. They make for a much prettier presentation than a boneless skinless breast. And besides, boneless chicken breast have no taste what so ever.

A cornish game hen is not a game bird but actually a type of domestic chicken. It can be either male or female and even though they command a higher price, they have a short growing span of 28-30 days unlike a chicken which takes about 45 days from hatch to your plate. I have never seen them fresh so look for them in your freezer section.

I’ve had this recipe laying around in my files for awhile and decided to start digging out some of those recipes and doing more cooking indoors since my husband cooked so much through the summer with his new Kamodo Joe smoker. I guess it is my turn to cook. There’s not a thing I would change in this recipe; it was very good and there was enough sauce for 4 cornish hens.

Enough rub for 2 hens. Double if you are doing chicken breast.

Rub spices on both sides of split hens.

My new garlic press. I think I love it. A few rocks and you have crushed garlic. I picked this up at Sur la Table.

Beautiful tangerines. I forgot to buy enough for the 1 cup of juice but I had a bag of Cutie oranges so I juiced them.

Simmering sauce.

The red pepper strips and tangerine sections get added in at the end. The uncooked peppers add a nice crunch.

Game Hens with Tangerine Sauce


  • Spice Rub:
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 cornish game hens cut in half
  • Sauce:
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 shallot minced
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 c. freshly squeezed tangerine juice
  • 1 tsp. tangerine peel pitch removed, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. molasses
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1 dash cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 c. cilantro leaves
  • 3 tangerines peeled and sectioned
  • 1 red bed pepper julienned


  1. Preheat oven to 425°. Combine the ingredients for the rub and rub the hens thoroughly with the mixture. Place hens skin side up in a roasting pan. Roast until juices run clear, about 25 to 30 minutes.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot, and sauté until translucent. Add garlic and cook until it begins to give off its characteristic aroma. Add tangerine juice, peel, sugar, salt, molasses, cornstarch and cayenne. Bring to a simmer and simmer until thickened and reduced by about 1/4.
  3. Remove from heat and add cilantro leaves, tangerine sections and red peppers. Taste, and adjust seasonings as needed. Cover and set aside until hens are done. When hens are dine, pour the sauce over them and serve.
  4. *Note:  You can substitute chicken breast for the cornish hens but try and get the breast with the wing still attached. Do not use boneless skinless chicken breast.

I served this with wild rice and a shaved asparagus salad.

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    November 21, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    This looks and sounds great! It is on my list of must try! Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy the family. Gena

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