Small, flavorful Cornish hens (young chickens) roasted with lemon, garlic and herbs until tender and juicy are a perfect match for minted orzo and a Greek Salad. Any leftovers make fantastic pita sandwiches the next day.
2 Cornish hens, washed and patted dry, any excess skin removed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
5-6 medium-sized roasting potatoes (like Russet, new or red), sliced into 1/2-inch thick rounds
3 garlic cloves, smashed with a chef’s knife or pushed through a garlic press
½ cup fresh lemon juice (from 4-5 lemons)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano, plus more for sprinkling
1 package orzo, cooked according to package instructions
Zest of 1 lemon
3-4 mint sprigs, stems removed and leaves finely chopped
¼ cup Bulgarian or Greek feta, stored in brine, then crumbled with a fork
Heat the oven to 350° F. Place the Cornish hens, breast-side down, in a roasting pan, and generously rub with salt and pepper on both sides and inside cavities. Arrange the potatoes around the hens.
In a mixing bowl, combine the garlic, lemon juice, oil, oregano and generous amounts of salt and pepper. Whisk thoroughly, then pour over the hens and potatoes. Sprinkle a small pinch of oregano over each bird. Cover with foil and cook in oven for about 1 hour and 30 minutes, basting occasionally with juices. Remove the foil for the last ten minutes of cooking time so the skin gets crispy and colors a little. Let rest for about 5 minutes before serving.
Meanwhile, prepare the orzo. Drain well and immediately toss with the mint, lemon zest and feta, if using.
Serve the hens at the table in the roasting pan with the minted orzo. Spoon any remaining pan juices over the orzo.