Make the paste and marinade the day before; marinate the hens the day of the party.
4 large oranges, sliced
2 cups whole pitted dates (about 8 ounces)
4 (1 1/2-pound) Cornish hens
2 cups cilantro sprigs
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
12 garlic cloves
1/2 cup pimento-stuffed olives
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup dry Marsala
1/4 cup honey
How to Make It
Arrange orange slices in 2 (13 x 9-inch) baking dishes, and sprinkle evenly with dates.
Remove and discard giblets and necks from hens. Rinse hens with cold water; pat dry. Remove skin, and trim excess fat. Split hens in half lengthwise. Place hen halves, meaty side up, on top of dates.
Prepare paste: Place cilantro in a food processor; pulse 4 times or until coarsely chopped. Add cardamom, cumin, coriander, and garlic, and process until finely chopped. Pat cilantro mixture onto hens; arrange olives around hens.
Prepare marinade: Combine vinegar, wine, and honey; stir well with a whisk until well-blended. Place in refrigerator for up to two days, if desired.
Slowly pour marinade over hens. Cover and marinate in refrigerator 2 to 24 hours, basting once with the vinegar mixture.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Uncover hens, and bake at 350° for 1 hour and 25 minutes or until juices run clear, basting occassionally with the vinegar mixture. Shield wings with foil, if needed.
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