Friday, July 24, 2009

Grilled Tuscan Game Hens

Recently, I enjoyed a butterflied game hen at a restaurant and knew it would be high on my list of things to try at home and went to work to find a recipe.  The game hens are first butterflied so they can be cooked more evenly on the grill. This would also work for an oven preparation but it's the middle of summer and peak grilling time! You could serve with this with a side of rice or potatoes but my husband and I were happy with just a side of fresh yellow beans from my garden.

I wasn't organized far enough in advance to marinade them as long as the recipe indicates and they were still very flavorful. This was the first time I've tried to butterfly poultry and it was not difficult at all but you will need a good kitchen shears and a sharp knife. I liked the how the drumsticks are tucked into a little slit in the skin to hold them in place. It made grilling so much easier and it looks nice on the plate.

Tuscan Cornish Hens

Adapted from The Canadian Living Test Kitchen
Servings 4
Printable Recipe


• 1/3 cup (75 mL) Lemon juice
• 1/4 cup (50 mL) Extra-virgin olive oil
• 4 Cloves garlic, minced
• 1 tbsp (15 mL) Chopped fresh rosemary
• 2 tsp (10 mL) Fennel seeds, crushed
• 1/2 tsp (2 mL) Each salt and pepper
(I also added a little Sarah's Mediterranean Sea Salt which has lavender in it)
• 4 Cornish hens (about 4 lb/2 kg) - Butterflied, See Instructions


In shallow glass dish, whisk together lemon juice, oil, garlic, rosemary, fennel, salt and pepper; set aside.

Using scissors, cut hens down each side of backbone; remove backbone. Turn, breast side up. Press firmly on breastbone to flatten; tuck wings behind back. Add to dish, turning to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours. (Make-ahead: Refrigerate, turning occasionally, for up to 24 hours.)

Place hens, skin side down, on greased grill over medium heat; close lid and cook for 15 minutes. Turn and cook for about 20 minutes longer or until juices run clear when thigh is pierced.

Transfer to cutting board; tent with foil and let stand for 10 minutes.

How to Butterfly (Spatchcock) a Cornish Hen or Chicken

1. Remove any excess fat inside the body cavities of the game hens or chicken, rinse under cold running water, drain and blot dry with paper toweling. One a cutting board, please the hen breast side down and, with a poultry shears, cut through the entire bird on both sides of the backbone from tail to head end and remove.

2. Open the bird by gently pulling the halves apart and, using a paring knife, cut of the breastbone on the inside of the bird. Run your thumbs along and under the sides of the breastbone and attached cartilage and pop them out.

3. Turn the hen over and, with a sharp knife, make a slit in the skin between the lower end of the breastbone and the leg, on each side, approximately 1/2 inch wide for a game hen and 1 inch wide for a chicken. Stick the end of the drumstick on that side through the slit. This will keep the bird together better during grilling and makes a nice presentation.


  1. This is almost the recipe from my cooking class I mentioned to you! C'est siiii bon! I served it this weekend again and it will always be a favorite of mine because I associate it with my class..and now you!

  2. They look beautiful and delicious! Ken particularly loves a grilled Cornish hen - thanks for the marinade recipe, sounds great. I usually cheat and use Wegman's lemon garlic marinade, shhhhhhhh but I would love a real recipe - thanks!

  3. I did a chicken on the grill and split it the same way. It looks so good that way and I think it does cook better. Your pictures are great:)

  4. Picture perfect chicken!!!! I love the flower garnish too ;) There is nothing like restaurant quality hens at home!

  5. Susan, the last picture makes my mouth water. YUM

    John loves Cornish game hens either on the grill or in the oven. He butterflies them when grilling, but cooks whole in the oven. I'm copying and pasting for him. He generally just wings the marinade. Yours sounds delicious.

  6. Looks beautiful! I guess it cooks up quicker split too. I have really been using my grill this summer due to the heat. I might give this a try.

  7. great minds must think alike! we just made something almost similar for dinner last night but we served ours w/ an agrodolce sauce. whoooa... best way to eat cornish game hens.

  8. Looks great, Susan! Nice legs :)

    Never butterflied before, have to try this one of these days! The marinade sounds so good! Anything with lemon! Have you tried the other flavors of that salt? I googled it!

  9. Haven't had that in a long time!
    It looks very good!

  10. It looks so nice butterflied. I like to roast my chicken like this nowadays as it cooks very fast.

  11. A lovely presentation, so pretty on the plate. I would love the addition of fennel seeds in the marinade.

    We're in the middle of a heat wave so I'll be cooking on the grill every night. Can't wait to try this.

  12. Looks really, really good... I haven't made Cornish Hens for a really long time - and this is making me think it's time again!

  13. So many wonderful comments! Thank you, all!

    Had to look up agrodolce sauce - I will try it soon :)

  14. Hi there. The current Food on Friday on Carole's Chatter is collecting links to dishes using duck or other game birds. I do hope you link this in. This is the link . It would be great if you checked out some of the other links – there are a lot of good ones already. Cheers


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