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Skillet Roasted Cornish Hens with Fennel and Parsnips

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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

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 Appetite, I quickly added it to my “recipes I need to make” list.

Skillet Roasted Cornish Hens

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.

Skillet Roasted Cornish Hens

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 grape seed)
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

– 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 7-­8 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.

Skillet Roasted Cornish Hens with Lemon


Skillet Roasted Cornish Hens

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).

Skillet Roasted Cornish Hens with Fennel


Skillet Roasted Cornish Hens with Fennel

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

Skillet Roasted Cornish Hens with Fennel

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.

Skillet Roasted Cornish Hens with lemon and fennel

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.

Skillet Roasted Cornish Hens with Parsnips Fennel

It’s time to eat. I hope you’re hungry 🙂

Skillet Roasted Cornish Hens

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Until we eat again,


Nutmeg Nanny

Monday 20th of April 2015

This dish looks so great! It's elegant and totally worthy of a fancy dinner party. Love the look of those aprons too. Soooooooooo pretty!

Kirsten/Comfortably Domestic

Sunday 19th of April 2015

Confession: I'm a little afraid of cornish hens. I tried making them once because I was trying to impress my first "real" boyfriend with my mad cooking skills. Unfortunately, it never occurred to me that the little hens would roast for far less time than a whole chicken. Those suckers came out of the oven deep brown in color and had the texture of beef jerky. I absolutely adore lemon and fennel together, so perhaps it's time to give it another go.

Angie Barrett

Sunday 19th of April 2015

ooo man, I wish that my Cornish Hens looks that amazing when I made them haha. Those hens and those photos are just perfect! Ps. I love the apron too!

Martha @ A Family Feast

Friday 17th of April 2015

Oh my gosh - fennel AND parsnips! Two of my favorite vegetables!

The Food Hunter

Friday 17th of April 2015

I'm a huge fennel fan...I've got to try this