Citrus-Herb Game Hens

That awkward moment at the very end of a cooking show where the host takes a bite of his/her food.  Eyes roll.  Lips pucker and voice moans.  Followed by some kind of explanation “Oh my god, the flavors are just exploding in my mouth…”

For heaven’s sake people, keep it rated G please!

And yet here I am, post after post.  Gushing, effusive, exclaiming “this is THE best thing I have ever eaten.”  Perhaps I should give Rachael and Giada a break, because I DO know that feeling.  The joy of creating a meal with enticing aromatics and sizzling sounds.  And then finally:  That.first.bite.


These citrus-herb Cornish hens definitely gave me that love-at-first-bite moment last night.  I call this technique “reverse marinating” and wow does the flavor ever pack a punch.  The hens are browned and roasted first, then get bathed in a lemony, garlic and herb mixture.  I served mine with a tomato/mozzarella salad and fresh ciabatta bread.

Feel free to substitute chicken for the Cornish hens, if you like.  Boneless skinless breasts can just be sautéed and would not require a trip to the oven.  For bone-in chicken pieces, I would knock down the oven temp to about 375° and roast for about 35 minutes.

But enough with the details.  Just make this and savor that first bite like Rachael or Giada or……me.

Citrus-Herb Game Hens

2  whole Cornish game hens

4 TBS best-quality olive oil, divided

1 lemon, sliced into thin rounds

1 TBS minced garlic

1 TBS each, chopped fresh rosemary and parsley

Salt and coarsely ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 450°.

To prepare hens, rinse under cold water and pat dry.  Using kitchen shears or a chef knife, cut down the middle of the breast and lay flat.  Then cut along either side of the backbone (discard backbone).  Season both sides with salt and pepper.

Heat 1 TBS of olive oil in a pan and brown the hens, skin side down until golden, about 4 minutes.  Turn hens over and sauté 2 minutes.  Transfer hens to a roasting pan, skin side up.  Roast hens, uncovered, until an instant-read thermometer registers 165° at the thickest part of the breast, about 20-25 minutes.

Just before hens are finished, place lemon slices in a glass dish and microwave on high until hot, about 1 minute.  Combine heated lemon slices, remaining 3 TBS olive oil, garlic, rosemary, parsley, salt and pepper.

Remove hens from oven and transfer to the dish with the lemon mixture.  Let rest for 10 minutes, flipping the hens every few minutes to coat with the oil and herbs.

Serves 4

2 thoughts on “Citrus-Herb Game Hens

  1. Just happily connected to your site via Chica Andaluza.

    Sometimes the most simplistic recipes are the best and these flavor combinations are perfect with game hen or chicken. Simply delicious!


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