The 2020 Festive Bird : Cornish hens in the Wood Fired Oven

Festive Cornish Hens

Once you start cooking in a wood fired oven, like our Forno Venetzia Torino 510, you really don’t feel like putting it away until Spring. The good news is you don’t have to! In fact, we can cook all winter long in our Forno Venetzia and that’s exactly what we plan to do. When temperatures drop below zero, just make sure to fire up your oven a little more slowly, to build up heat gradually. You can use small wood and paper for the first 7-10 minutes and slowly add small pieces of hard wood. Once it’s hot, it’s hot but if it’s very windy outside, watch the temperature gauge more closely to ensure you’re not losing too much heat, too fast.

Here is a recipe for a Holiday meal, that is well suited for the particular circumstances we are all sharing in 2020. Let’s be honest, no one is planning (or allowed to, in many regions) to host the entire family for Christmas. Unless you plan on eating Turkey leftovers until the beginning of 2021, Cornish hens might just be the perfect festive bird, ideal for a family of four or a hungry couple! Cornish hens are in fact small chickens, with a very classy name and very tender meat, if cooked right. Very popular during the Holidays in France and England, Cornish hens are less known on this side of the pond. Cornish hens are much easier to cook than turkey and look great and fancy on the Holiday table but also any other Sunday of the year.

Cornish Hens cooked in wood fired oven

Cornish hens in the Wood Fired Oven

Prep Time 10 mins
Cuisine European
Servings 4 people


  • 2 Cornish Hens
  • 8 Garlic Cloves
  • 1 Lemons
  • 2 Shallots
  • 2 pounds New Potatoes
  • 3 tbsp Duck fat
  • 4 sprigs Rosemary
  • 4 sprigs Thyme
  • Salt, Pepper, Sage
  • 2 1-inch Slices of the best country best you can find 1-2 day old


  • Build your fire slowly, with small wood and paper and let your Forno Venetzia heat up slowly. After about 10 minutes, you can start adding small logs to get to about 500F. Then let it start to drop temperature to about 450F.
  • Meanwhile pour some olive oil in a cast iron skillet or pan big enough to fit your Cornish hens and potatoes. Lay your thick slices of bread drizzled with olive oil on the bottom of your skillet.
  • Season the Cornish hens liberally with salt and pepper inside and out. Stuff each hen with 1-2 garlic clove, half a shallot, some sage and rosemary. Tie the legs together and tuck the wing tips under the breasts. Lay the hens on top of the country bread breast side up.
  • In any space you have left around the birds, put your clean new potatoes, leftover garlic, shallots, rosemary, thyme and sage. Drop thumb size pieces of duck fat (or use butter if you don’t have any)throughout your dish. Melt about 1 tablespoon of butter and brush on top of the hens.
  • Position the skillet or pan in the opposite corner of the fire. Let the wood fire oven cool down naturally from 450F to about 375F and if it gets below, add small pieces of split dry wood to keep it close to 375F. Turn the pan or skillet every 10-15 minutes to balance heat. Bake for about 45 minutes until internal temperature reaches 160 F. Take out the pieces of country bread, then cover the skillet or pan with aluminum foil and allow the hens to rest for about 10 minutes. Internal temperature should reach 165F.
  • Toast the removed country bread in the wood fired oven, on a pan or skillet, if not already toasted. They are the best tasting croutons you’ll ever have so stay close, so they don’t burn!
  • To serve, cut the hen in half, serve with the most amazing roasted potatoes you ever had, on the best croutons in the whole world, remember those moments you do have to be grateful for in 2020, one being this meal, the other the ability to cook it outside in your wood fired oven in true Canadian fashion, feet in snow, fireside, in great company.
    Cornish Hens in Forno Venetzia


Wood fire temp: start around 450F, let it drop to around 375F and keep it as stable as you can for the balance of the cooking.