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Pan Roasted Hens with Pancetta and Lemons

Yvonne Tally
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This “One Dish Delish” is elegant, full of protein and low in fat. The pancetta gives a savory flavor while keeping the lean meat moist. The lemon’s natural citrus tenderizes the meat while giving it a light fresh element that balances the pancetta. The trussing takes a few minutes but well worth the finished product. This one is sure to become a family favorite!

4 servings
Prep Time: can be done the day before/20 minutes
Cook Time: 1.15 hour
Level: Enthusiast – Expert
Cornish game hens 4
pancetta 16 slices, cut like thick country bacon
lemons 4, each lemon 5 slices (remove ends and reserve)
olive oil enough to coat hens and pan
salt to taste
lemon pepper to taste
dry white wine 1/2 cup
chicken stock 1 1/2 cups
trussing string 4 pieces per hen 24 inches each

Let’s Cook

Wash hens in cool water and pat dry. Place on a washable working service. I use a cookie sheet so it can be sterilized after use.

On work surface lay out 4 pieces of trussing twine in a “hopscotch” pattern – 2 vertical and 2 horizontal.

On top of twine place 2 slice of pancetta to wrap around the width of the hen.

On top of the pancetta place two lemons. Do this for each hen

Season hen with salt and lemon pepper and drizzle hen with a liberal amount of extra virgin olive oil. Make sure to coat it evenly.

Salt and lemon pepper the inside of the hen and place a slice of lemon inside.

Place hen on the layer of twine, lemon and pancetta. Repeat pancetta and lemon pattern on top of the hen.

Using a trussing needle or tooth picks (wood with no color — the dye will discolor the meat). Pierce needle through the wings and thighs catching the pancetta. If using toothpicks, you may need several to secure the wings and pancetta.

Bring the string up from the long ends and secure. Do the same with the short ends. Gently turn the hen over once it is secured and bring the string back around and secure again making sure to tuck the wings and the legs inside the string.

Take the remainder of the lemons and chop in to small pieces and toss into pan around the hens. These will caramelize during the cooking process and add a nice bite to the pan sauce.

This is your do ahead point

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Rack on top position

Use one heavy duty oven proof pan to fit all 4 hens or two pans to fit 2 hens with room between each hen. If the hens are too close together they will not cook evenly.

Begin on stove top with heat med high. Drizzle enough olive oil to coat the bottom of your oven proof heavy duty pan. Oil should be hot but not smoking. Place hens breast side down in pan and brown, about 3-4 minutes. Turn and brown on back side.

Remove from heat and put in preheated 425 degree oven for 15 minutes.

Reduce heat to 375 degrees and move rack to middle position. Pour enough warm water in the bottom of the pan to just cover the bottom, about 1/8 inch. The water will help create the pan juices and will add moisture to the cooking process. Continue cooking for 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes, add the white wine and finish cooking for another 5-10 minutes.

Remove hens from pan immediately to slow the cooking, cover, and set aside in a serving dish.

Caramelized Citrus Reduction

Return the pan to the stove top with all the oils and juices. Turn on medium high. Add 1-1 1/2 cups chicken stock to hot pan. Using a spatula to scrape the bottom of the pan to release the dried drippings. This is where all the flavor is so don’t leave any behind. It also makes cleaning up a lot easier!

Reduce heat until consistency is that of syrup, about 5 minutes.

Remove the trussing from hens. Pour pan sauce directly over the hens and serve.

The Long and Short of It…

Prep the hens to the point of cooking the day before. Be certain to cover with a tight seal for storage and refrigeration.

Let hens stand at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours before cooking. This will allow the meat to cook more evenly.


Yvonne Tally

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