{Ridiculously Delicious} Saffron Game Hen; Wild Rice Dressing with Cherries and Pistachios

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Are you ready for something ridiculously delicious? That’s right, I made it to the second round of the Marx Foods Ridiculously Delicious Challenge! In this round, each contestant was asked to create a recipe using two of eight ingredient samples that we received. With ingredients ranging from coconut sugar to grains of paradise, it wasn’t an easy task!

I originally hoped to make a duck dish utilizing the dried tart cherries and tepin chilis, but had to change gears when I wasn’t able to find duck breasts. Despite having to rethink my entry in the middle of the grocery store (something I admittedly am not good at – I can’t shop without a list!), I couldn’t be happier with the meal that I came up with: a Moroccan-themed feast of Cornish game hens seasoned with saffron and lemon along with wild rice dressing with tart cherries and pistachios.


Slathered with a combination of butter, saffron, and lemon, these brightly flavored hens boast a beautifully golden skin that crackles under your fork and gives way to succulent, juicy meat. The wild rice dressing is the perfect side dish — the rice itself is fabulously nutty and moist, while the pistachios and tart cherries contribute unexpected texture, flavor, and color. Make sure to buy dried tart cherries for this recipe — check the package closely! It’s very easy to accidentally buy dried cranberries that are only flavored like cherries, but those are much sweeter and I don’t think they would work nearly as well.

Served with a glass of wine and a side of cajun-blackened green beans, this meal was a real weeknight treat — and every bit worth the slightly longer than normal cooking time. After all, while it takes a little over an hour to prepare, it only requires you to be in the kitchen for about 15 minutes.


Lemon and Saffron Game Hens

Prep time: 5 min ; Total time: 1 hour
2 servings


  • 2 Cornish Game Hens
  • 1 Onion, quartered
  • 1 Lemon, zested and quartered
  • 1 sprig fresh Sage
  • 1 sprig fresh Thyme
  • 1 Tbs Butter, softened
  • 1 pinch Saffron
  • Salt and Pepper



Preheat oven to 350F.

Rinse then hens (inside and out) and pat them dry with a paper towel. Place one piece of onion, one piece of lemon, and one sprig each of sage and thyme into each hen. Set the hens, breast-side up, in a roasting pan. Season with salt and pepper.

In a small dish, stir together the butter and saffron. Spread each hen with half the saffron butter.

Roast hens for 45 minutes at 350F, then increase the oven temperature to 400F. Spread each hen with 1 tsp lemon zest. Roast at 400F for an additional 15 minutes or until cooked through — juices should be clear and the skin should be browned and crisp.

Remove from oven and let rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.


Wild Rice Dressing with Cherries and Pistachios
Serves 4

  • 2 cups Wild Rice
  • 1.5 cups Chicken Stock
  • 1 tsp. Butter
  • 1/4 cup Dried Tart Cherries, chopped
  • 1 tsp. Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Onion, diced
  • 3 ribs Celery, diced
  • 1 clove Garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbs Pistachios, chopped
  • Sage and Thyme, chopped

Combine the wild rice, chicken stock, and butter in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the cherries, cover, and reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until rice is tender.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a small pan. Sauté the onion, celery, and garlic for 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the sauteed vegetables and pistachios to the cooked rice and toss to combine. Season with sage and thyme.


By on February 24th, 2011

About Lauren

Hi, I'm Lauren! I'm a certified plant-based cook and enthusiastic omnivore who loves looking for creative ways to make weeknight meals more nutritious. I'm the author of Heathy Eating One Pot Cookbook and Healthy Meal Prep Slow Cooker Cookbook. I also blog at The Busy Foodie.

More posts by this author.

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