Friday, June 7, 2013

Irish Game Hen

by Sheila Connolly

The itinerary has me in Dublin today, assuming I survived the whirlwind tour of northern Italy.  If I were smart I would be sending you up-to-the-minute iPad shots of pubs and markets and the like, but getting a tablet has been on my to-do list for a while. Next trip! (And I reserve the right to post a slew of pictures of this fabulous cookware store I've found in Dublin after I get back.)

So I went hunting for an Irish recipe anyway.  I've collected a range of Irish cookbooks by now, both high end and simple. Yes, there is a lot of cabbage and potatoes involved, but the food has improved by leaps and bounds over the past decade.  I was looking for something "nice" and I stumbled over a recipe for Pheasant with Mustard Sauce.

I'm a little short on pheasant.  I've never cooked one, although I have eaten it once or twice.  I once even saw a country pub in England where it was on the menu.  But I can improvise.  Pheasant is a game bird, so duck would be a good substitute.  But I've done duck here before, so I've defaulted to game hen (which has a more delicate flavor, so I've lightened up the sauce just a bit).  Chicken thighs and legs would do as well.

It really was the sauce I was interested in.  It consists of stock, red wine, port, whole-grain mustard, and cream. 

Cornish Game Hen with Mustard Sauce

Split two game hens.  A two-pound hen will serve two people easily, but if they're smaller you might want to plan on one hen per person.

Salt and pepper the pieces.  Saute the halves in a mixture of butter and oil over medium-high heat (I happened to have some duck fat, so I used that instead of butter), then reduce the heat, cover, and cook until done (and the thigh juices run clear).


1 cup chicken stock
1 cup red wine*
2 Tblsp dry sherry
2-4 Tblsp whole-grain mustard
1 cup light cream
Salt and pepper if needed (will depend on the 
   saltiness of the stock)

*Note:  choose a dry but full-bodied wine

Put the stock, wine and sherry in a saucepan and boil until reduced by half.  Stir in the mustard and the cream and continue to reduce until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.

Shred a small head of Savoy cabbage (the crinkly kind) and boil until just cooked.  Drain and toss with butter.

Make a "nest" of the cabbage on each plate and lay the game hen portion on top.  Spoon some sauce over each piece.

Serve with boiled or mashed potatoes (hey, it's Irish!)

The fourth book in my Museum Mystery series was released earlier this week.

If you know Philadelphia at all, the large building is meant to be the Art Museum, with the Schuylkill River running by on the right.  What you don't see is the Water Works, down by the water, where I set an important chapter in the book. 

There happens to be a great restaurant in the Water Works (I had to do the research, didn't I?)


  1. Sounds like a wonderful trip, Sheila, though we are all green with envy! Safe trip home...

  2. This recipe looks heavenly. Marc and I flip for mustard sauces (South Carolina style BBQ is one of our faves, so that should prove it :)). Have a great, safe return trip and (for sure!) post those photos. Can't wait to see them, Sheila. Cheers ~ Cleo

  3. Enjoy the old country for all of us.
    This sounds very tasty. Duck fat makes almost everything taste better!
    A question. What happened to the port you originally mentioned? Did it get traded for the sherry?

  4. I love Cornish (and now apparently Irish) hens. This sauce will be wonderful.

    Hope you have a good trip back after your jealousy-inducing adventures, Sheila.

    MJ (off in search of duck fat)