Skillet Roasted Cornish Hens with Fennel and Parsnips

Skillet Roasted Cornish Hens with Fennel and Parsnips is simple, yet stunning. It's perfect for when you want to impress but don't want to go to too much fuss.

Skillet Roasted Cornish Hens with Fennel and Parsnips is simple, yet stunning. It's perfect for when you want to impress but don't want to go to too much fuss. - Kudos Kitchen by Renee

I've been on the lookout lately for recipes that include fennel. So when I saw this one in the December 2014 issue of Bon Appetit, I quickly added it to my "recipes I need to make" list.

The key to making this dish as delicious as possible (for the eyes as well as the taste buds) is in the browning of the Cornish hens in the skillet before adding the vegetables. Taking the time to create a deeply golden-brown exterior will ensure a crispy skin, and moist, juicy meat.

Please note that this dish is started in a large skillet on top of the stove and is finished in the oven inside the skillet to cook the hens through to 165 degrees, and to roast the vegetables to perfection. An oven safe skillet is preferred if you're looking for an easy one pan clean-up, but if you like you can add the browned hens to an oven safe casserole along with the vegetables and finish it off in the oven at that point. The choice is yours.

The only thing I did to change the original recipe from Bon Appetit magazine was to use three Cornish hens instead of a roasting chicken, and I added sweet onions into the skillet along with the fennel, parsnips and lemon. Next time I make this (and I'm sure I will), I plan on adding new potatoes into the mix, making this an entire meal in one simple (albeit large) skillet.

Servings: 3 Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 30 minutes

3 tablespoons oil (I used grapeseed)
3 Cornish hens
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to season the hens
2 fennel bulbs, trimmed and sliced into quarters
1 large sweet onion, cut into generous slices
3 large parsnips, peeled and sliced into large julienne strips
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 lemons, zested and juiced with the rinds reserved
Fennel fronds for garnish, if desired
Lemon wedges for garnish, if desired
Kitchen twine to tie the legs, optional

- Preheat oven to 425°. Dry each hen well with paper towels (inside and out). Season the Cornish hens liberally (inside and out) with salt and pepper. ­

- In a large, heavy oven proof skillet brown the Cornish hens on both sides in the oil over medium/high heat until golden brown (approximately 7­8 minutes per side). Remove the hens to a plate or dish, and keep warm. *Note ­ to keep the hens neat and tidy, I tied their legs together with kitchen twine. This is optional but I think they look more appealing this way. 

- In the same skillet, add the sliced fennel, onions, parsnips, 1 teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and saute over medium heat until lightly browned (approximately 3-­4 minutes), stirring occasionally.

- Place the Cornish hens, breast side up, on top of the sauteed vegetables and squeeze the lemon juice over the hens and vegetables and sprinkle the lemon zest evenly over top. Nestle the lemon rinds in the skillet along with the other ingredients. *Note ­ If using a casserole dish, follow the same process by transferring the vegetables and hens into the casserole dish and continue on as described.

- Roast the hens in the preheated oven until an instant-­read thermometer reaches165 degrees, or when the juices run clear (approximately 30­-35 minutes).

- Cool for 10 minutes so the juices stay within the hens. ­To serve spoon some pan juices over the hens along with a healthy serving of vegetables per plate. Garnish with fennel fronds and lemon if desired.

Brown the seasoned hens on both sides in a large skillet (approximately 7-8 minutes per side). Remove to a plate or dish and keep warm. Tie the legs on each hen together with kitchen twine if desired.

Cut the fennel into bulbs by chopping off the green stalks making sure to save some of the fennel fronds for garnish (if desired). Slice the bulbs into quarters and discard the stalks (or reserve for making stock at another time).

Saute the fennel, parsnips and onion in the same pan that the hens were cooked in, until lightly browned. Season with salt and pepper.

Place the hens, breast side up. on top of the vegetables in the skillet. Squeeze the lemon juice over the hens and vegetables and top with the lemon zest. Nestle the lemon rinds in the skillet.

Roast the hens in a preheated 425 degree oven until the hens reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees (approximately 30-35 minutes) . Cool for 10 minutes and garnish with fennel fronds and lemon wedges if desired.

It's time to eat. I hope you're hungry :)

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