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North African Cornish Hens

Updated February 23, 2016
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Perhaps the most aromatic cuisine in the world comes from northern Africa, where every dish is a symphony of spices.

These Cornish hens are rubbed with a streamlined version of the Moroccan spice mixrure ras at hanout, marinated, and roasted with lemons and oranges. (Don’t serve the fruit with the chicken--they are there only for flavoring’s sake.)

Serves4

Cooking Methodroasting

CostModerate

Easy

Total Timeunder 2 hours

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationmain course

Mealdinner

Taste and Texturefruity, juicy, spiced, tangy

Ingredients

  • 4 (1½-pound) Cornish game hens
  • 2 lemons, halved
  • 1 orange, quartered
  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed through a garlic press
  • 1½ teaspoons salt, preferably coarse (kosher)
  • 2 tablespoons paprika, preferably hot Hungarian
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seed
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • ¼ cup olive oil

Instructions

Using a sharp knife or a cleaver, split each hen down its back and open it up flat, like a book. Arrange the hens, skin side up, on two large roasting pans. Squeeze the lemons and oranges over the hens, and then place the squeezed lemon and orange pieces underneath the hens.

On a work surface, sprinkle the garlic with the salt. Using a large knife, chop and smear them together to form a paste. Scrape the garlic paste into a small bowl, and stir in the paprika, cumin, ginger, and optional cayenne. Gradually stir in the oil to make a paste. Spread the paste on the hens’ skin, and let them stand at room temperature, covered, for 1 hour before roasting.

Position a rack in the top third of the oven, and preheat to 400°.

Roast the hens, basting often with the drippings, until the juices run yellow when the flesh is pierced with a fork, 50 to 60 minutes. Serve immediately, discarding the cooked fruits.

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