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Olive & Thyme Butter Roasted Cornish Hens | Taste & Tipple

Thyme & Olive Butter Roasted Cornish Hens

I'm going to be honest with you, massaging the compound butter under the skin of the birds is finicky work. BUT the resulting meat is so juicy and tasty, your efforts will be handsomely rewarded. To avoid tearing the skin, use your index finger to gently loosen the skin from the breasts and legs before putting a small amount of butter on your fingertip and smoothing between the meat and skin.

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword Christmas, Cornish Hen, Olives, Thanksgiving, Thyme
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 25 minutes
Servings 6



  • ¼ cup butter softened, plus 2 tbsp melted
  • 8 oil-cured black olives pitted and finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 Cornish hens each 1½ lbs


  • 2 tsp butter softened
  • 2 tsp flour
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ½ cup chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme


  1. Preheat oven to 450°F (230°C).

  2. To prepare hens, combine softened butter, olives, garlic and thyme in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Divide butter mixture between hens, working under the skin with your index fi nger, to cover breasts and top of legs. Tie legs together with kitchen twine and place on rack in a large roasting pan. Brush with melted butter and season with salt.

  3. Place in oven and immediately reduce heat to 375°F (190°C). Roast for 40 to 45 minutes (in my case this took 65 minutes), or until a meat thermometer inserted in thickest part of leg registers 160°F (70°C). Remove to a board, tent loosely with foil while preparing sauce.

  4. To make sauce, mix butter and flour together in a small bowl. Place roasting pan over high heat, pour in wine and stir to scrape up brown bits in bottom of pan. Bring to a boil and reduce by half. Add chicken stock and return to a boil. Add butter and fl our mixture, whisk to combine and continue boiling for 1 minute longer or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat, stir in chopped thyme and check for seasoning.

  5. Carve hens in half through the breast bone and spoon a small amount of sauce over each half.

Recipe Notes

Recipe from: St. Onge, Christopher. "Thyme & Olive Butter Roasted Cornish Hens." Food & Drink. Spring 2012.