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Irene's Cornish Hens with Tarragon and Calvados

Yield Makes 4 servings
In France, Barbara Bennett was treated to a home-cooked meal by her Parisian friend Irene. The main course was Cornish hens in a creamy tarragon sauce. It's a dish Bennett has duplicated many times since--with fond memories.


  • 2 Cornish hens (1 3/4 to 2 lb. each)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine
  • 1/3 cup chopped shallots
  • 1/2 cup calvados or dry white wine
  • 1/3 cup fat-skimmed chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon or 1 tablespoon dried tarragon
  • 3/4 cup crème fraîche or whipping cream
  • Tarragon or parsley sprigs
  • Salt and white pepper

Nutrition Information

  • calories 696
  • caloriesfromfat 62 %
  • protein 40 g
  • fat 48 g
  • satfat 20 g
  • carbohydrate 4.3 g
  • fiber 0.1 g
  • sodium 155 mg
  • cholesterol 259 mg

How to Make It

  1. With poultry shears or a knife, cut each hen in half lengthwise through breastbone and backbone. Rinse and pat dry. Reserve giblets for other uses.

  2. Set halves, skin side up, in a 9- by 13-inch pan. Brush skin with melted butter, then sprinkle with the shallots.

  3. Bake in a 425° oven until meat at thigh bone is no longer pink (cut to test), about 40 minutes (35 minutes in a convection oven). Transfer hens to a platter; keep warm.

  4. Spoon off and discard fat from pan drippings. Add calvados, broth, and tarragon to drippings. Set pan over medium-high heat and stir to scrape brown particles free.

  5. Whisk in crème fraîche. Turn heat to high and boil until mixture is reduced to 3/4 cup, 5 to 8 minutes. Pour sauce into a bowl. Garnish hens with tarragon sprigs and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with sauce.