Creating recipes isn't a pastime—it's a passion. And a lot of fun.

The rules are few: Use 99% fresh ingredients (or thereabouts); make the dish simple but flavorful; make the dish flavorful but simple; be creative, not silly.

With this blog, I want to share new recipes, along with tips on ingredients and preparation, and, hopefully, show new cooks (and non-cooks) the pleasure in setting the table with a delicious homemade meal. The Briny Lemon is about fresh, simple, flavorful ingredients and easy cooking methods that help you bring the best to your family table. Your comments are welcome!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Pan-Roasted Game Hens with Lemon and Leeks

I love game hens. Eating and cooking them. Despite the name, these little chickens are not game birds—they’re just baby broilers. And the meat is exceptionally tender and juicy. I think pan roasting is one of the best methods of bringing out the succulent flavor of the hens. Which, by the way, are not necessarily female, again despite the name. Another misnomer for this tasty little bird.

Here, I used lemon—both juice and zest—along with leeks to complement the chicken. Roasted leeks have a wonderfully deep, caramelized flavor that pairs well with the slight tanginess of the lemon. That said, I used the leeks mostly to add a little earthy, oniony flavor to the dish. If you want to use them as more of a side dish, you may want to cut them into smaller pieces.

Note: One game hen serves two people, so if you don’t want to cook them whole and carve later, see the directions and photos below for easy steps in preparing them first.

For other game hen ideas, check out Pan-Roasted Game Hens with Pearl Onions and Piri Piri Game Hens.

Serves 4

  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 3 tsp finely chopped lemon zest, divided
  • 2 tsp finely chopped rosemary, divided
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 game hens, giblets removed
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, halved crosswise, each half cut lengthwise in half
Lemon Zest, Rosemary, and Garlic
Trimmed Leeks 
Prepared Leeks 
  1. Combine the garlic, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 teaspoon lemon zest, and 1 teaspoon rosemary in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Rinse the hens thoroughly and pat dry. Using kitchen shears, remove the tail and any excess skin and fat.
  3. Lay the hens breast-side down on a work surface. Cut along each side of the backbones and remove them. Cut through the center of the breastbones to divide each hen in half.
  4. Place a wire rack in a large, rimmed baking sheet and place the hen halves on it. Loosen the skin and rub the garlic mixture over the meat beneath it. Use any leftover to rub on the outside of the skin. Refrigerate 2-4 hours. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before continuing.
Rinse and pat dry 
Cut along the backbone of the trimmed hen 
Remove backbone 
Cut through the breast to halve 
Rub with marinade
  1. Preheat the oven to 375° F.
  2. Combine the chicken broth, lemon juice, remaining 1 teaspoon lemon zest, and remaining 1 teaspoon rosemary in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook 3 minutes and remove from the heat. Set aside.
  3. Heat a large (at least 15-inch) ovenproof skillet, preferably cast-iron, over medium-high heat and brush with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil.
  4. Season the hens with salt and pepper and place skin-side down in the skillet. Cook, without turning, until the skin just begins to brown, 5 minutes.
  5. Spoon 2 tablespoons broth mixture over the hens and place the skillet in the oven. Roast 20 minutes.
  6. Remove the skillet from the oven and turn the hens skin-side up. Scatter the leeks around them and spoon another 2 tablespoons of the broth mixture over all. Roast until the hens’ skin is golden brown and the meat is cooked through, 20-25 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes.
Chicken Broth Mixture
Hens Beginning to Sear 
Ready to Roast 
Halfway Through 
Leeks Added
Plate the hens and leeks, spooning the remaining broth mixture over all.

Pan-Roasted Game Hens with Lemon and Leeks

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