Grilled Game Hens with Oregano, Lemon, Black Pepper & Truffle Oil

Grilled Game Hens with Oregano, Lemon, Black Pepper & Truffle Oil

The game hen is the diner’s delight. Half a bird gives you a bit of everything – a leg, a thigh, a breast and a wing – in a single portion-sized serving. It’s as satisfying as eating an entire chicken, but a lot less filling.

Game hens are a great choice for grilling too, especially when split in half. Their petite size means that they cook quickly, sealing in the flavor and keeping them moist and juicy.

One of our favorite ways to prepare game hens is by bathing them in a savory marinade with a taste that is reminiscent of the sunny Mediterranean. The classic combination of olive oil, fresh lemons, oregano and zesty black pepper is enlivened with a modest splash of truffle oil. Marinating the hens for several hours allows all these rich flavors to mingle and infuse every bit of the chicken.

In addition to being wonderfully delicious, this dish is easy to make – and most of the prep can be done hours (or up to a day) ahead of time.

The hens really do taste best when grilled over charcoal or on a gas grill, but if grilling is not in the forecast, they turn out very nicely when simply roasted in the oven. Delicious hot, cold or at room temperature, these little hens are just the thing for picnicking, whether you’re at the beach or right at home in your own back yard.

Grilling Game Hens

Game Hens on the Grill

Grilled Hens with Oregano, Lemon, Black Pepper & Truffle Oil

Whisk together the olive oil, truffle oil, lemon juice, oregano and a generous amount of cracked pepper. Save out about 1/2 cup of marinade and put aside.

Slip the halved hens into a large ziploc bag and pour in the marinade. Force as much air as possible from the bag and seal tightly.  Marinate from 2 hours to overnight.

Soak a handful of apple wood chips in water or white wine for at least half an hour.

Prepare the gas or charcoal grill to cook at 400-425 degrees, or pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Drain the wood chips;  if using a gas grill, place in a small aluminum container covered with aluminum foil and poke holes in the top.  Put the pan with the wood chips into the center of the grill.  When it begins to smoke, it’s time to begin grilling.  If you’re using a charcoal grill, sprinkle some of the wood chips directly on the coals just before you put the hens on.  Add more chips occasionally throughout the grilling process.

Remove the hens from the bag and sprinkle with a little sea salt. Place on the hot grill or on a baking pan in the pre-heated oven. Turn the hens a few times, brushing frequently with the reserved marinade. Grill for about 30-35 minutes, or 45 minutes in the oven, until done and the juices run clear.

Enjoy immediately or let cool and serve at room temperature.

Grilled Game Hens with Oregano, Lemon, Black Pepper & Truffle Oil

Grilled Game Hens with Oregano, Lemon, Black Pepper & Truffle Oil


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