Maria Loggia’s Devilled Cornish Hens, for Easter. | ALENA KIRBY

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“Smaller than chickens, and tastier, Cornish hens are sponges for flavour because of their tender meat.  This spicy dish marinates for an hour in lemon juice, chili pepper and sage.  Promise you won’t skip this step.”

Photo credit Cardinal Publishing


4 grain-fed Cornish hens, about 1 1/2lb (675g) each

  • 2 lemons, cut into wedges
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 large lemon
  • 6-8 large sage leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 2-3 small fresh red chili peppers, sliced or 1 tsp (5ml) dried chili pepper flakes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 6 large bay leaves


  • 2 shallots
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 packed cup (125ml) fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 8 tbsp (120ml) cold unsalted butter, coarsely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Place the Cornish hens in a bowl of cold salted water and let soak for 10 minutes.  Rinse under running water, then drain and pat dry.  Butterfly each Cornish hen by cutting through the breastbone, opening and pressing firmly to flatten.  Place in tiella or other earthenware baking dish large enough to accommodate the hens side by side in a single layer.  Arrange lemon wedges around the hens.

In a small bowl, mix together olive oil, lemon juice, sage and chili peppers.  Season well with salt and pepper.  Pour marinade over the hens, add bay leaves and let marinate in the fridge for an hour for an hour, turning the hens halfway through.

Meanwhile, prepare shallot butter:  Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until mixture forms a soft paste.  Scrape onto a sheet of parchment paper, roll into a cylinder and refrigerate.

Preheat oven to 450F (230C).  Place baking dish, with hens skin side down, on oven rack 6 inches (15cm) from the top element.  Bake 15 to 18 minutes, basting with the marinade once or twice.  Turn hens and repeat.  Pearce a thigh with a skewer to see if the hens are ready – the juices should run clear.

Spread 1 tbsp (15ml) of shallot butter over each breast of each Cornish hen.  Broil for 2-3 minutes, until golden.  Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes.  Cut each hen in half.  Serve with juices and lemon wedges from the pan.


“The shallot butter is not only delicious but versatile.  Make a batch to serve on rice, grilled fish, grilled vegetables or corn on the cob.”


This recipe, courtesy of Cardinal Publishing, is available in Maria Loggia’s cookbook “Everyday Celebrations with Maria Loggia” available, signed by the author, at Alena Kirby.




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