Andrew Zimmern’s Cornish Hen Recipe Is a Fall Family Favorite

The chef, TV personality, and dad's favorite recipe to cook for his family is far from bizarre. And it's damn comforting.

by Fatherly
Originally Published: 
Joy Velasco for Fatherly

As the steel-stomached host of Bizarre Foods, Andrew Zimmern is best known for sampling everything from still-wriggling coconut tree grubs and jellied moose nose to horse rectum sausage and 18-day-old duck embryos. But the culinary multi-hyphenate and host of What’s Eating America? keeps things a bit more refined at home. His “dad special” meals are often comforting, traditional family meals. Case in point: This pan roasted Cornish hen recipe with calvados — a brandy — and apples he loves to prepare for his family in the fall.

“The Dad Special” is a celebration of food, family, and fathers who cook. Featuring chefs, celebrities, and kitchen crazy dads, this collection highlights meals — from family secrets to quick kid delights — meant to honor time spent at the table.

“Over the years this dish became a favorite of my son, and his friends, proving that simple cooking, falsely perceived as sophisticated, is adored by all,” he says of the recipe, which he found in an ancient farmhouse cookbook and tweaked over the years. “The sweet and sour flavors are perfect with the little birds and the smaller pieces, raisins, and apples really make kids happy.”


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 Cornish hens, quartered and backbones removed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 5 shallots, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 1/2 cup Calvados
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Granny Smith apples—peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup dried currants


  1. In a large deep skillet, melt the butter in the olive oil.
  2. Season the hen pieces with salt and pepper and add half of them to the skillet.
  3. Cook over moderately high heat, turning, until browned all over, about 8 minutes; transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining hen pieces.
  4. Add the shallots to the skillet and cook over moderate heat until softened, about three minutes.
  5. Add the cider, stock, Calvados, and vinegar and simmer over moderately high heat, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the apples and heavy cream and bring to a simmer. Return the hens to the skillet and simmer over moderately low heat covered for about 10 minutes.
  7. Remove the lid and cook for 10 more minutes at a light simmer.
  8. Transfer the hens to a platter. Add the currants to the skillet and season the sauce with salt and pepper. Spoon the sauce over the hens and serve.

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