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Cornish Hen w/ Madeira Mushroom Sauce

This is ideal for an elegant dinner party. The sauce may be prepared early and gently reheated later. The hens may be prepped earlier in the day or the day before and just kept in the refrigerator. The sauce is balanced by the earthy mushrooms and the smooth flavor of the Madeira. I used sage with this dish because I like the flavor it imparts on the hens and in the sauce. I chose to serve this with some mushroom ravioli and a simple Caesar salad to start.

Ingredients: serves 4

for the Hens

2 Cornish Hens, cut in half with the backbone removed (kitchen shears make this easy)

2 T Unsalted Butter, softened

1 T Olive Oil

3 T Sage, chopped fine

1 t Salt

1 t Black Pepper


1 8oz. package of Mushrooms, sliced

1 med. Shallot, chopped fine

1 c Beef Stock (I use Swanson)

1 c Madeira

1/4 c Heavy Cream

1 T Unsalted Butter

1 T Olive Oil

10 Sage leaved, chopped fine


You want to start with hen halves that are dry and cleaned of any excess fat.

Then mix the softened butter with the olive oil, sage, salt and pepper. Blend this with a fork. Loosen the skin of the hens and put some of the butter mixture under the skin and using your fingers spread it out. Rest the hens on a foil lined tray in the refrigerator and cover lightly with plastic wrap.

Bring the hens to room temperature before baking.

Preheat the oven to 350.

When ready, bake the hen halves for 35 minutes or until a thermometer inserted between the thigh registers 170. Remove from the oven, tent with foil and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes.


In a large saute pan, melt the butter with the olive oil over medium heat. When the butter starts to foam, add the shallots and stir. When the shallots begin to soften, add the mushrooms and the chopped sage. Stir and allow the mushrooms to brown. When the mushrooms are brown add the Madeira and stir. Let the Madeira cook for about 2-3 minutes to burn off the alcohol then add the beef stock and stir. Allow the sauce to reduce to about 1 cup, then turn off the heat. Let cool for about 10 minutes. Slowly add the heavy cream, stirring constantly. ( this is best added slowly so the sauce doesn't break)

The sauce may be covered and set aside. However, if this is made in the morning then refrigerate the sauce. Warm the sauce gently in a large saute pan over low heat when ready.

Note, I do not add any salt to the sauce since the hens have been seasoned with salt and if you are using ravioli , they have enough sodium.


While the hens are baking and the sauce is warming, cook the ravioli in a pot of lightly salted water. When ready, drain and then add the ravioli to the sauce in the large saute pan. Gently toss the ravioli to coat with the sauce.


To plate, spoon a little of the sauce onto the plate an place a hen half over it and then spoon a little of the sauce over the hen. Put some of the ravioli next to the hen and drizzle with a little more sauce. Pass some Parmesan cheese at the table for the ravioli.


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