Recipe: Roasted Cornish game hens with Meyer lemons

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
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Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Servings: 2

Note: Niçoise and Picholine olives are at selected supermarkets such as Whole Foods and Bristol Farms.

2 Cornish game hens, about 1 3/4 to 2 pounds each, washed and dried

4 Meyer lemons, divided

2 teaspoons kosher salt

3 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed and sliced thinly crosswise

3/4 cup Niçoise olives

3/4 cup Picholine olives

8 garlic cloves, peeled and halved

2 tablespoons olive oil

Black pepper

1. About an hour ahead, remove the Cornish game hens from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature.

2. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Slice 2 of the lemons paper thin with a knife or a mandoline. With your fingers, carefully loosen the skin from the meat on the breast side of the hens. Insert 5 or 6 lemon slices underneath the skin of each hen. Put any unused slices and the ends of the lemons into the cavities, and rub the salt equally over the 2 hens.

3. Cut the remaining 2 lemons into 8 wedges and scatter them in the bottom of a shallow baking pan with the fennel, olives and garlic. Place the hens on top of the fruit and vegetables. Pour the olive oil over the 2 birds, then season with a few grinds of black pepper.


4. Roast the hens in the oven for 30 minutes, then lower the heat to 350 degrees and roast for about 20 minutes longer, or until the meat is firm, the skin is golden and the juices run clear (a thermometer placed into the thickest part of the bird will register 165 degrees); the vegetables and fruit will have started to caramelize.

5. Let the hens rest 15 minutes, then serve them with the roasted lemons, olives and fennel.

Each serving: 1,268 calories; 96 grams protein; 40 grams carbohydrates; 13 grams fiber; 81 grams fat; 17 grams saturated fat; 357 mg. cholesterol; 2,955 mg. sodium.