Friendsgiving Challenge #3: Let’s Talk (Not) Turkey

We asked you for your dietary restrictions this holiday season, and then turned them over to some very talented queer chefs for help. Cat Cora, world-renowned chef, restaurateur, author, and television host (among so many other things, we can’t list them all!), is bringing you an inexpensive, quick-cooking alternative to the traditional turkey that’s not nearly as intimidating as you might think.

Click here for more Friendsgiving Cooking Challenge.

Last-minute plans; no gluten, dairy or soy; allergic to walnuts, and cantaloupe.

Cornish Hens can be a delicious alternative from the traditional Thanksgiving Turkey during the holidays because they are unique in their flavor profile (like a small delicious chicken). The pomegranate glaze is special and won’t be seen at every dinner table. They are inexpensive, and easier to work with when roasting, they also take up less space in your fridge and oven. The best tip is they don’t take hours to bake and the fun part is each person gets their own which makes it more chic for a holiday dinner.

Pomegranate-Glazed Cornish Hens


1 cup wild rice
1 oz kosher salt
1 small onion (finely chopped)
3 tablespoon fresh flat leaf parsley (finely chopped)
1 teaspoon fresh savory (finely chopped)
4 Cornish hens
olive oil
black pepper (freshly ground)
1 cup pomegranate juice
pomegranate seeds (for garnish)

Rinse the rice in cool water, drain, and add the rice to a medium saucepan with a lid. Add 3 cups cold water and 1 teaspoon salt. Set over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring once. Immediately reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Cook for 45 to 55 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed.

Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F.

While the rice is cooking, spread the chestnuts on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven for about 10 minutes. Remove the chestnuts from the oven. In a large bowl, mix together the rice, chestnuts, onion, and herbs. Set aside.

Turn up the oven to 375°F.

Pat the Cornish hens dry with a paper towel. Remove the livers, hearts, and gizzards and discard or reserve for another use. Lightly sprinkle the cavity of each hen with salt and loosely fill with the rice stuffing, leaving a little space to allow the rice to expand during roasting. Truss the birds, if you like. You will have some stuffing left over. Spoon it into a small casserole with a lid and set aside or refrigerate.

Rub the skin of the hens with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste and place, breast side down, on a rack set in a roasting pan. Bake for 15 minutes, then baste with the pomegranate juice. Continue basting with pomegranate juice every 15 to 20 minutes, until the hens are dark golden brown, the juices run clear when the hens are pierced at the thigh with a fork, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, not touching the bone, registers 175°F to 180°F, 60 to 65 minutes. During the last 25 minutes of roasting time, slide the casserole of extra stuffing into the oven to heat.

Remove the birds from the oven and transfer them to a platter. Cover them with foil and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

To serve, place 1 hen on each plate and garnish with the pomegranate seeds, if desired. Pass the extra stuffing at the table.

Pomegranate Balsamic Glaze:

I treat this glaze like barbecue sauce, brushing it on once during the cooking and once again when I bring the hens out of the oven. Then I put the rest in a small bowl and pass it at the table as a sauce.

Combine 1 cup pomegranate juice and 1 cup balsamic vinegar. Heat over medium-low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the mixture is syrupy but not as thick as molasses. This makes about 1 cup glaze. The glaze keeps in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

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Cat Cora

Cat Cora is a world-renowned chef, author, restaurateur, television host, and proud mother of six. Follow the first ever female Iron Chef on Twitter and Instagram!

Cat has written 1 article for us.


  1. HELLO CAT CORA and thank you for your turkey recs, I JUST bought a pomegranate and have been wondering why I don’t use them more!!

  2. CAT CORA! HI! HELLO! Thank you for all that you do.

    Can’t wait to try this! I already have a turkey for the big day, but also I love game hens and pomegranate, so will definitely make good use of this.

    Also just…. Thanks to you and Iron Chef for being such an inspiration to this fledgling chef. :)

  3. My friends and I were just talking about turkey/cranberry fatigue when it came to having multiple Friendsgivings; cornish hen and pomegranate glaze sounds like the perfect solution!

  4. Food advice from an actual IRON CHEF…I’m so excited.

    Cornish game hens are perfect when you’re entertaining a small group of folks–I can only cook four at a time before I’m like, “Why didn’t we just get a turkey”– so I’m definitely saving this recipe for a future dinner party.


  6. This looks DELICIOUS! I love the visual of everyone getting their own little cornish hen at the t-day table!

    My cooking skills are subpar and I feel very intimidated to even be looking at anything suggested by Cat Cora, but also very hungry all of a sudden.

    Sidebar: Iron Chef was one of my top 3 favorite shows to watch when I used to work overnights at a women’s shelter circa 2005-2006 and I was always like, “FUCK YES!” when Cat Cora was on!

  7. I’m Canadian and Thanksgiving is long over for me, but I am still excited to make these. Mmm pomegranate.

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