Mussakhan with cornish hens

I have made this Palestinian dish before using  boneless thighs or bone-in chicken pieces;  this is the first time I try it with cornish hens. The cornish hens lend themselves very well to this dish, because one hen will suffice per piece of (lavash or markouk) bread. As a result, each person will be presented with their little cornish hen encased in bread and onions.

Can’t find this bread? Use pita bread, the largest one possible.


  • 1 Cornish hen per person (or per two people)
  • one large onion per hen
  • 3 Tablespoons of sumac per hen
  • olive oil, as needed
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon of seven-spice seasoning or a mixture of cinnamon and allspice and pepper
  • 1 1/2 cup of chicken broth


  1. Rub the cornish hens with a cut lemon and sprinkle evenly with some seven-spice or a mixture of cinnamon and allspice, white or black pepper and salt.
  2. Heat some olive oil in a pot and brown the hens all over until golden-brown throughout. Add two cups of water to the pot and let the water cook the hens for 20 minutes and change into a broth.
  3. Slice the onion into rings and pan-fry in a skillet with some olive oil; when the slices are soft and start to caramelize, sprinkle with the sumac and a pinch of salt and remove from the heat.
  4. Lay a piece of lavash or markouk or pita bread on a greased pan. Place the hen in the middle and surround by the onions placing some onions on top of the hen. Fold the bread over till the hen is completely enclosed.  You may need to start off with the bread on top of the hen and tuck the bread in to enclose the bird. Sprinkle the entire bread with about a cup or two of the broth. Place in a preheated 350F oven for about 20 minutes or until the bread is golden-brown. Serve.

NOTE: If you cannot find lavash or markouk bread, you can use a large pita bread instead, splitting it open and stuffing the bird inside.

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  1. Marie-Claire
    Posted April 13, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Où puis-je trouver le “7 spice”? Par contre, j’adore tous les plats avec du Sumac… que tu m’avais fait découvrir chez Anne-Marie il y a longtemps, et que j’ai toujours dans mon placard depuis. A Dallas, où acheter le pain spécial?
    Je fais cette recette la prochaine fois que j’ai du monde!

  2. Joumana
    Posted April 13, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    @Marie-Claire: tu peux trouver tout ça chez Sara Bakery sur Sherman et Spring Valley; le pain est fait chez Fadia sur Campbell et Hillcrest (Phoenicia Bakery) mais elle le vend chez Sara.

  3. Posted April 13, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Wow, cornish hen wrapped in lavash…looks delicious, what an appetizing dish. Hopa you are having a great week :-)

  4. Posted April 13, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    This looks so good. I need to pull out the sumac to use on poultry more often. I do use it on fish a lot. Sounds like a nice combo with the seven spice. I have never had cornish hens before, you are pushing me to try it! In a good way :D

  5. Posted April 13, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    This is a very interesting way of cooking cornish hen…I know I’d love the flavor of it since its seasoned with sumac.

  6. Posted April 13, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    my hubby loves sumac, lovely cornish hens..


  7. Posted April 13, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    What a stellar presentation – I have only ever had Mussakhan with chicken bits and onions but yours makes one heck of a gourmet presentation. I must make this at a dinner party :)

    chow! Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  8. Posted April 13, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    Gorgeous presentation, Joumana. Wish I could have just a taste!

  9. Posted April 13, 2011 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t visited Cornish hens forever. Love encasing them in the lavash – so elegant with a surprise inside.

  10. Posted April 13, 2011 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    I love all the spices that went along the recipe! Must be so delicious after encasing in pita :) Mmmmm and the onions would lend it’s natural sweetness to the bread as well! Lovely dish!

  11. Posted April 13, 2011 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

    These cornish hens sound so flavorful, love the addition of seven-spice seasoning!

  12. Posted April 14, 2011 at 2:07 am | Permalink

    I was attracted to your dish as soon as I saw the first picture but I knew I would love it as soon as I saw that it has sumac in it. Is there anything better than sumac? It just goes so well with everything. I just used it on prawns this week. What a great idea for a complete meal in one–presents so well, too. :-)

  13. Posted April 14, 2011 at 2:12 am | Permalink

    That looks so elaborate and delicious, I imagine your guests must be thrilled to bits when you present them with one of these. Absolutely delicious.
    *kisses* HH

  14. Posted April 14, 2011 at 2:13 am | Permalink

    Wow! Never seen this one before. The meat must taste amazing.

  15. Posted April 14, 2011 at 4:44 am | Permalink

    It looks delicious, I love sumac and all spices.

  16. Posted April 14, 2011 at 5:17 am | Permalink

    I like cornish hens! This must be very fresh, and flavoursome.

  17. Posted April 14, 2011 at 5:26 am | Permalink

    Cela fait un moment que j’ai cette recette dans mes archives et je ne l’ai pas réalisée à cause du pain. Je vais voir si je peux trouver des pitas xxl.
    Je suis restée un peu perplexe devant l’appellation poulets de Cornouailles. C’est du coquelets. Je ne cuisine pratiquement plus que du coquelet : il est plus cher mais plus goûteux que le poulet même fermier.
    A très bientôt.

  18. Posted April 14, 2011 at 6:03 am | Permalink

    The next time I caramelize onions I will definitely use some sumac to mix in. Thanks for the tip.

  19. Posted April 14, 2011 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    What a gorgeous presentation! The hens sound absolutely delicious. These have some definite wow-factor!

  20. Posted April 14, 2011 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    Looks wonderful. Would love to try it soon!

  21. Posted April 14, 2011 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    My very own Cornish hen, just for me, all wrapped up like a parcel? I so wish I could come dine with you! I’d bring a good bottle of wine, I promise.

  22. Posted April 14, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    I was reading through the recipe and drooling the whole time. I am not sure if I can get cornish hen locally so is it ok to use the normal chicken?

  23. Posted April 14, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Such a beautiful presentation! I love the way the hen is wrapped so beautifully.

  24. Posted April 14, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Permalink


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  25. Joumana
    Posted April 14, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    @sensiblecooking: this dish can be made with a regular chicken, chicken thighs deboned, chicken pieces boned. ETc.

  26. Posted April 14, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    This is looks amazing!! I have made this with chicken but not a cornish hen. I am going to try this. Thanks!

  27. Posted April 14, 2011 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    I can’t imagine how good this would be… I was even thinking of using that Giant Ethiopian bread with a full size chicken… exotic and comfort food in one dish… perfect!

  28. Posted April 14, 2011 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    This looks really inviting. Must try it. Though trying to get the largest pita will be quite a challenge.

  29. savoringtimeinthekitchen
    Posted April 15, 2011 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    What a wonderful presentation and so delicious!

  30. Posted April 16, 2011 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    Excellentissime !!! Une préparation chic et pleine de charme dans son ” écrin ” savoureux. Sur que cette préparation en ” croûte ” de pain doit faire son effet sur les convives….

  31. Posted April 17, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Looks great! I’m sure it tastes awesome too :)

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