Burnt Crunchy Bits – Dornish Game Hens, a Medieval Feast Inspired by Game of Thrones

Cornish Hens

inspired by Game of Thrones

By Louisa Herron

"Fuck the king"
The Finished Meal

When you need to eat every fucking chicken in the room.

For the hens

  • 2 Cornish game hens, about 1 1/2 lbs. each
  • 6 strips of bacon (not thick cut, it won’t brown as well)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 small onions
  • 2 sprigs each of fresh thyme, sage, and rosemary
  • 1-2 cups chicken stock (low sodium if you can, it gets very salty)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch (optional)
  • Salt and pepper

For the vegetables

  • 2 carrots
  • 2 parsnips
  • 8 oz. pearl or cipollini onions, or shallots
  • A dozen small potatoes
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • Sprigs of fresh thyme, sage, and rosemary
  • Salt and pepper

Prepare the vegetables

Melt the butter in a small bowl. Peel all but the potatoes, and cut them into chunks. They should be large chunks but no part should be thicker than an inch. Cut the potatoes in half or quarters if they’re thicker than an inch, and put all the chunks into a baking dish that will hold them in one layer, not too much overlap. Sprinkle the veggies with melted butter, salt and pepper, and lay the herb sprigs on top. Put them into a 400 degree oven, on a low rack.

They're mostly for decoration
The Vegetables

While the veggies start cooking, prepare the hens

Mix the oil and vinegar in a small bowl and set aside. Rinse the hens and pat them dry, discarding any giblets if they came with the hens. Look over the skin and if you see any thicker fat deposits, usually where the legs attach to the body and around the neck, slash them with the tip of a knife (this will help the fat render out during roasting and make for crisp skin). Don’t cut very deep, just through the skin and into the fat. Peel the small onions and put one onion and the herb sprigs into each hen’s cavity. Cut the strips of bacon down the middle lengthwise to make long bacon ribbons, then lay them over the breasts of the hens, 6 “ribbons” on each bird, 3 in each direction in a grid pattern. Weaving the ribbons over-and-under each other will help keep the bacon in place as it cooks and tries to curl. Tuck the ends of the bacon underneath, and sprinkle the hens with salt and pepper.

You could just eat it this way, but we didn't tell you that
Raw Chicken

Put the prepared hens on a wire rack set into a cookie sheet with 1 inch sides, breast side down. Put the sheet into the oven on a middle rack, above the vegetable dish. Take the veggies out, stir them around a little and put them back in. Roast everything for 25 minutes, or until the back of the hens are pale golden brown. Take the hen sheet out of the oven, brush the backs with the oil and vinegar mix (it won’t stay mixed, just keep stirring it up with the brush so you get a bit of each every time) and flip the hens over, breast side up. Brush the tops of the breasts and legs with the oil and vinegar. Return the sheet to the oven, pouring about a cup of chicken stock into the bottom below the wire rack. Stir the veggies again. Roast another 20 minutes.

Take both the sheet with the hens and the vegetable dish out of the oven, and raise the temperature to 450. Brush the hens with the last of the oil and vinegar, add another half cup or so of chicken stock to the sheet. If your vegetables look nice and browned in spots, set the dish aside to keep warm. If not, add them back to the oven for the next step. Roast the hens another 5-10 minutes, until nicely browned. Discard the rosemary and thyme stems from the veggies; I leave in the small thyme leaves and the crispy sage leaves.

Remove the hens (and veggies if applicable) from the oven (set the vegetable dish aside), and put the hens on a carving board or serving dish to rest for 10 minutes. Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, scrape up all browned bits in the cookie sheet and pour all the liquid into a fat separator. Pour the juices into a small saucepan. If you don’t have a separator, pour the liquid into a small saucepan, let it settle for a minute, then skim off as much fat as you can with a spoon. Taste the juices and add more chicken stock or water to your taste. Heat the saucepan over medium high heat until it’s at a gentle boil, then pour into a gravy boat. If you’d like to thicken the jus/gravy, mix a tablespoon of cornstarch into a tablespoon of water in a small bowl, and pour it into the simmering juices while stirring. Stir and simmer for another 30 seconds, then pour into a gravy boat.

Serve and enjoy!

“You lived your life for the king. You gonna die for some chickens?”

“Someone is.”


This is a simple medieval-Europe-inspired recipe, but they wouldn’t have had potatoes. A little leeway is allowed for Westeros I think, but if you’d like to keep the vegetables to more traditional choices you could substitute a medium sized turnip for the potatoes, peeling it and cutting it into chunks. The vegetables can be customized however you like, I used one orange carrot and one purple one for color; I love parsnips but you can replace them with carrots, change the type of potatoes, add rutabagas or beets (golden beets are preferable unless you don’t mind all your veggies being stained red), or change the herbs.

The balsamic vinegar is a culinary trick to get poultry skin nice and brown- it won’t add much tartness or sweetness to the finished dish. I leave the onion and herbs inside the hens, they act as aromatics and don’t get in the way of eating. My gravy was very flavorful, I ended up adding more chicken stock to soften the richness/saltiness of it. You can omit the bacon if you prefer, just rub the hens all over with a little oil to help them brown.

This is very much a comfort food meal but if you’d like to freshen it up, people ate simple salads in the Middle Ages. Mixed greens with edible flowers, chives, fresh herbs, nuts and/or berries dressed in a vinaigrette (one part vinegar to 3 parts oil) would make a nice first course.


“She was hungrier than I would have believed. We finished two whole chickens and part of a third, and drank a flagon of wine, talking.”

― George R. R. Martin, A Game of Thrones

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One response to “Burnt Crunchy Bits – Dornish Game Hens, a Medieval Feast Inspired by Game of Thrones”

  1. i am a vegetarian..and your vegetables sounds so tasty…i will definitely try this and let you know then