Citrus Tapenade Game Hens

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Since we were planning on it just being the two of us on Christmas, I wanted to have a fun Christmas dinner and I didn’t mind experimenting since I didn’t have guests to please. At the last minute, we got a pity invite to a friends and ended up eating a gorgeous crown roast instead. No skin off my back! We just pushed our “Christmas Dinner” to the 26th.

And it was worth the wait.

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This was my first time making Cornish Game Hens! I imagined it was like mini roasted chickens, and I was right. They turned out really well – very succulent and flavorful. I selected this recipe for my love of orange and salty tapenade but wasn’t sure how it would work together but it did.

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If I could have a do-over, I would skip the gravy part of the recipe. The hens did not need it and it just seemed to make everything greasier and saltier. I ended up scraping most of it off.

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I paired the hens with simple roasted potatoes and green beans and it turned out to be a delicious Boxing Day meal. I am definitely inclined to make game hens again – it would be a perfect date-night-in kind of meal! (Nothing gets me going like seeing my husband getting under the skin of a chick!)

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Citrus Tapenade Game Hens

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pitted nicoise or kalamata olives
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained and finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely shredded orange peel
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 pounds Cornish game hens, split lengthwise into halves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt, Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh thyme

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. For tapenade, in a small bow,l combine olives, capers, garlic, anchovy paste (if desired), and orange peel. Stir in 1 tablespoon olive oil.

2. Loosen skin on hens. Using your fingers, carefully spread tapenade evenly under skin of each hen half. Brush hens with 1 tablespoon olive oil; sprinkle both sides of each hen half with salt and pepper. Arrange hens, cut sides down, in a large ovenproof skillet. Roast, uncovered, about 35 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in one of the inside thigh muscles registers 180 degrees F (the thermometer should not touch bone).

3. Remove hens from oven. Transfer to a warm serving platter; cover and keep warm. For sauce, drain all but about 1 tablespoon of the drippings from the skillet. Add shallots to drippings in skillet; cook and stir over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes or until shallots are tender. Remove skillet from heat. Add chicken broth. Return skillet to heat. Cook and stir to loosen browned bits from skillet. Bring mixture to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 to 10 minutes to reduce slightly. (Should have about 1/2 cup sauce.) Stir together softened butter and flour. Whisk into sauce until slightly thickened. Stir in snipped thyme. Spoon sauce over hens. If desired, garnish with thyme sprigs. Makes 4 servings.

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3 Responses

  1. That looks really tasty! I made Cornish game hens for thanksgiving. It was a nice alternative to turkey. And I made that “engagement chicken” last year–the whole chicken stuffed with lemons. That was AMAZING! Good flavor combos.

  2. Oooo, my husband has been bugging me to try making something with game hens, but honestly I’ve been a bit intimidated by these tiny birds. You do make them look delicious and since this recipe has olives and capers, it would be a sure winner with my husband. Merry Christmas!

  3. Great Job! Roasted my game hen last nite with fresh made roasted potatoes almond green beans and mushroom gravy with a side of cranberry jell. The whole meal took 30 minutes in my Nuwave oven. (Have had various models for 20 years sit on your counter look cumbersome cost about $100 but are fantastic for bachelor gourmet cooking!)

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