Quick Bites from Pender

Cornish Game Hen with Aranciata Gastrique

In Kitchen Tips, Recipes on March 8, 2010 at 5:01 am


Howard likes a good Chicken Orange.  It’s a dish his Mum made for special occasions through his childhood.  Most of us have at least one special dish that we grew up with.  My favourite was Fondue Bourguignonne (hot oil) — a total pain to assemble, “Too many sauces, dishes and forks,” my Mom used to say when I asked for Fondue for my dinner birthday.

Mom always came through though, and my brothers, parents and I would hover round the 2 fondue pots blazing on their blue fuel flames — beef cubes, carrots, mushrooms and potatoes on our long forks.  It took at least an hour for everyone to get enough to eat, and the time needed only increased as we kids got older and bigger.


Howard’s Mum always came through too.  And although she hasn’t eaten meat for most of her adult life, she could always be counted on to produce a beautiful Sunday roast, weeknight pork loin, or if the occasion called for it, a roasting pan full of Chicken Orange.

Given that Chicken Orange is a 40 year old recipe (at least), I thought that it needed to be brought into the 21st Century.  We just don’t use cornstarch like that anymore, if you know what I mean.


I started by wielding my trusty kitchen shears, and cut the backbone and neck out of 2 organic cornish game hens.  Next I snipped off the tips of the wings, then picked up a paring knife and removed the ribs and keel bones from the breasts.

Still with the pairing knife, I removed the scapula (shoulder bones) and thigh bones, by slicing through the flesh, down the length to expose the bone.  Using the dull side of the knife, I scraped the meat from the bone down to the next joint.  Then I cut under and around the thigh bone to remove it.

I used the shears to cut away loose flaps of skin — and voila — 2 boned or spatchcocked game hens.

I hummed the whole time.  I find de-boning poultry to be strangely soothing and satisfying.  Leave me at a stainless counter with a case of chickens or game hens and you’ll find me looking for more when I’m done.  Unless I’m hungry — then raw poultry is gag-making.  Never de-bone on an empty stomach, that’s what I always say.


To layer the citrus of the sauce, I rubbed the minced rind of a preserved tangerine and some thyme under the skins, and let the birds rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.  Then I lightly oiled and seasoned the skin, and fired them, one at a time, onto a hot grill pan.  Once it was all settled in, I weighted the bird with another cast iron pan, and browned the skin well, then fired both into the oven to finish.

I reheated my reduced sauce (recipe below), finished it with butter, and sauced the plate.  Chicken Orange Redux?  DONE.


Although not a gastrique in the true sense of the word, this slightly tangy citrus syrup mimics one very well.  And who doesn’t like a sauce made out of a soft drink and butter?  Can’t wait to make it with tofu for Howard’s Mum!

If boned game hens aren`t your style, try this easy sauce with grilled boneless chicken breasts.

Aranciata Gastrique

Yield:  4 servings

Orange 1 medium
San Pellegrino Aranciata Orange Soda 1 can
Shallot, minced 1 small
Garlic, minced 1 clove
Butter 1 T
salt TT

T=tablespoon    TT=to taste

Grate the zest from the orange, then remove the remaining white pith and discard.  Juice the orange, then cut the remaining flesh into quarters.

Combine the orange zest, juice and flesh with the Aranciata, shallot and garlic in a small saucepan.  Reduce over med high heat until syrupy and approx ¼ cup of liquid remains.  Strain, and return the sauce to a clean pan over low heat.  Finish the sauce with the butter and season to taste.

Serve hot with grilled poultry, chicken strips, poached white fish, tofu, etc.  A little of this sauce goes a long way.


  • I used a preserved tangerine from the batch I made a few weeks back.  Rinse well, then use it exactly as you would a fresh orange.  You may need to add 1 teaspoon of sugar after reducing the sauce, to balance the additional salt.
  • To make this sauce ahead of time, reduce it and strain.  When ready to serve, reheat gently and stir in the butter.

  1. That is just beautiful – your photos are eye popping! Gorgeous!!

  2. Thanks Denise! I am lucky to have a skylight right above my workstation in the kitchen. Lighting is a breeze!

  3. Great idea using the orange reduction. I’ve done a similar thing with orange juice and sugar for dessert crepes but I’ll bet I could come up with a nice orange sauce for chicken.

  4. Short cut: Homemade marmalade?

    • Trysh,

      You`re on to something!

      Orange marmalade goes very nicely with chicken — on a sandwich, or heated and strained, then used as a glaze for chicken while it`s still in the oven.

  5. Noticed Cornish game hens in the refrig section of your store recently and thought of apricot rice stuffed hens. Yummy! Now the idea of your recipe appeals more. Your blog sure makes the standard go up in my kitchen and it’ll go even higher once the new stove is installed! Made a delicious bread and butter pud with strawberries and using left-over homemade bread. Off now to devise a main course. Or maybe I’ll follow your Sunday lunch lead and just eat dessert. You see you’re sending me down a slippery slope!

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