Spice-Rubbed Game Hens with Rhubarb-Date Chutney

April/May 2005

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Tart rhubarb simmered in cider vinegar with chopped dates, brown sugar and cinnamon makes an excellent chutney to accompany tender game hens. The chutney would be delightful with pork as well. It freezes well, so if you like, you can make extra to enjoy throughout the year.

"I first tried this a few years ago at the cottage for a really special dinner, and it was fantastic. It is now my go-to special meal in the early summer when I can pick rhubarb in the garden (well to be honest, poached from a big patch...
Spice-Rubbed Game Hens with Rhubarb-Date Chutney

Makes: 8 servings

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Total Time:



  • 1 orange
  • 4 Cornish game hens, about 1 1/2 pounds each (see Note)
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper


  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups fresh rhubarb, trimmed and sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup pitted dates, chopped


  1. To prepare hens: Preheat oven to 400°F. Using a vegetable peeler, remove a 2-inch strip of zest from the orange, then cut the orange in half, squeezing juice out of one half and cutting the remaining half into 4 wedges. Place 2 tablespoons juice and the strip of zest in a medium saucepan for Step 4. Tuck an orange wedge into the cavity of each game hen. Sprinkle the remaining orange juice over the hens and place breast side up in a large roasting pan, leaving plenty of space between them.
  2. Stir together 1 tablespoon brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Rub the mixture over the hens and tie the legs together with kitchen string, if desired.
  3. Roast the hens until the juices run clear and an instant-read thermometer registers 165°F when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, about 1 hour. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
  4. Meanwhile, to prepare chutney: Add vinegar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, ginger and cinnamon to the orange juice and zest in the saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Add rhubarb and dates, increase heat to medium-high and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer gently until the rhubarb is tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Just before serving, remove orange zest.
  5. To serve: Remove string (if necessary) and skin from each hen. Turn breast-side down and slice in half lengthwise using a large heavy knife, cutting straight through to the breast side. Serve each portion with 1/4 cup of the chutney.

Tips & Notes

  • Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate the chutney (Step 4) for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 4 weeks. To reheat, microwave on High for about 2 minutes or warm in a saucepan over low heat. | Equipment: Kitchen string (optional)
  • Note: Cornish game hens, a naturally smaller breed of chicken, are a cross between Plymouth Rock and Cornish chickens. Usually weighing less than 2 pounds, one bird will comfortably serve two. If you can't find fresh hens, look for them in the freezer section. To retain moisture, hens should be prepared with the skin on, but to reduce fat and calories, remove the skin before eating.


Per serving: 250 calories; 5 g fat (1 g sat, 2 g mono); 146 mg cholesterol; 17 g carbohydrates; 33 g protein; 1 g fiber; 160 mg sodium; 551 mg potassium.

Nutrition Bonus: Selenium (41% daily value)

Carbohydrate Servings: 1

Exchanges: 1 other carbohydrate, 5 very lean meat

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Recipe Categories

Ease of Preparation
Total Time
More than 1 hour
8 or more
Main Ingredient
Poultry, other
Preparation/ Technique

Type of Dish
Main dish, poultry
April/May 2005
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