Game hens are perfectly sized birds for a dinner of two. Rather than roasting up legs, breasts, thighs or drumsticks, a whole feathery friend at the dinner table can make it a little fancier.
Years ago I made this for a quick dinner, serving the bird with a delicate thyme velouté, fresh ripe figs and homemade gnocchi. Having a partial kitchen to cook in, the dinner was delicious and perfect after the day’s construction tasks.
Velouté you say? One of my favorite grand French sauces, which here in America its fancy for gravy. A sauce thickened with flour and butter where stock is added. Gravy on the other hand is sometimes made by adding a mixture of water and flour to the pan juices or stock and simmered to thicken. I do prefer a velouté for its depth of flavor and velvety texture; velouté meaning velvety.
Sage White Wine Roasted Game Hen Recipe
2 game hens, rinsed and dried
3 large garlic cloves, peeled
¼ cup fresh sage leaves
3 Tablespoons dry white wine
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons fresh thyme
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 whole garlic cloves
1 lemon, halved
2 sprigs thyme
1. In a food processor, puree the garlic, sage, wine, olive oil, thyme, sea salt and black pepper into a course puree.
2. Rub mixture into prepared game hens and stuff each hen with 4 garlic cloves, lemon half and a sprig of thyme. Tie up legs and fold under wings. Marinate for an hour or overnight. Bring hen to room temperature before roasting.
3. Place game hens into pan and sprinkle with additional salt and pepper to taste.
4. Roast game hens in a 450ºF oven for 15 minutes, reduce temperature to 350ºF and continue for another 45-60 minutes until juices run clear and bird is golden.
*notes: I often brush roasting birds with melted unsalted butter during the last 30 minutes to enrich their flavor and help the browning process along. Also, if you plan to roast one bird, reduce cooking Roasting at 450ºF oven for 15 minutes, reduce temperature to 350ºF and continue for another 30-40 minutes.
Delicate Thyme Velouté Recipe
2 cups homemade chicken stock [recipe here]
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 medium shallot, diced
1 Tablespoon garlic butter
1 Tablespoon cognac -or- white wine
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon heavy cream [optional]
1. Melt butter in a pan over medium heat. Remove from heat and whisk in flour. Return to heat and cook to a blond roux, approximately 2 minutes until a toasted aroma develops.
2. Remove from heat and whisk in 1 cup of stock. Return to the heat and whisk in the remaining stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes and skim the surface when necessary.
3. In a small sauté pan, sauté the shallots in butter until softened and starting to brown. Deglaze with cognac and add fresh thyme. Remove from heat and continue to stir to allow the thyme to sweat.
4. Stir shallots and thyme into the sauce. Heat for a couple of minutes to infuse the sauce with the shallots and thyme. Strain the sauce again and press solids against the fine mess of the strainer to bruise thyme for a further extraction of flavor.
5. Bring sauce up to heat and stir in cream or omit.