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Friday, October 7, 2011

Olive-Olive Cornish Game Hens - French Fridays with Dorie

I think it took me longer to wander around the grocery store aisles looking for the game hens than it took me to cook them. The only reason that this isn't a spur-of-the-moment recipe is that I haven't yet found a place where I can buy game hens that aren't frozen.

But once they're thawed, it takes only a few minutes to whack them up, and just a few more to roast them.

Whacking them up is more technically known as spatchcocking. First, cut out the backbone (I used some kitchen shears). Then flatten the rest of the bird.

Then you loosen the skin from the chicken and insert some tapenade. It would have been better with homemade, but that would have added a little time, and I was trying to turn this into a quick weeknight dinner. The first time I tried the old seasoning-under-the-skin trick, I was surprised at how easy it was. The skin is actually quite cooperative--it loosens easily and doesn't usually tear. I've used fresh herb pastes under chicken skins, but the tapenade/game hen combo is new to me.

Then you just douse them in olive oil, squeeze lemon juice over them, and give a few good shakes of salt and pepper. Hopefully you've remembered to preheat the oven to 500 (and remove anything that you might have stored in your oven).

Just 25 minutes in the hot oven gives you crispy brown-skinned chicken and a few spoons of flavorful drippings.

Some cubes of sweet potatoes cooked at the same temperature and for the same time as the game hens (you'll notice that a few pieces got burned--I shouldn't have put them in the oven 5 minutes early). Al dente sugar peas added color and texture.

This was a delightful dinner. There are no official bonne idees here, but I think any herb paste or butter would work well. And I also think that leftovers would make a lovely lunch with a salad of baby greens. (In fact, I'm looking forward to that for tomorrow's lunch).


  1. Glad this was a hit for you.
    Anything you can "slide under the skin" is a bonus - all sorts of compound butters or pastes would definitely work.
    Have a great weekend.

  2. Your little birdies look very tasty. I too thought that a nice herby or garliky compound butter would be great here and will probably try that next time instead of the tapenade (which, like you, I too purchased from the store).

  3. Wow, your hens look so nice and golden! Great job! That's my one complaint, I wish mine had gotten a little darker...

  4. What a marvellous colour you got on the skin of your hens. My oven steadfadtly refuses to burnish the top without burning the bottom, so I go for the pale but interesting look.

  5. You made the spatchcocking look so easy! Love the shot of the CGH meat underneath the skin - it looks perfectly cooked.

  6. that oven temp is a usual one for me, I bake lots of bread at home! but you do have to get stuff out of the oven that you dont have to touch to move at the last minute! :)glad you liked it, the sweet potatoes was such a great idea!

  7. Nice job! I love the sides, too. I had to go to two different stores before I found the hens. I guess because it was the week before Thanksgiving, I was lucky to find them at all. The first store had extra turkeys where the game hens are usually found.