“You served the king. You’re really going to die for a chicken?”
Polliver and the Hound, Season 4, Episode 1
Arya and the Hound are everyone’s favorite murder-hobos. I mean, think about it. If anyone else were ranging around Westeros picking fights to the death, it’d be a problem. In fact, there are a lot of ruffians doing just that, and we find it incredibly objectionable. But Arya and the Hound? We are cheering them on, because they are our favorite Murder Hobos.
I know they say chickens in the show, and you could easily adapt this recipe for chickens, but I opted for game hens for a few reasons. First, I wanted to be able to photograph a heap of birds, to really make it look like every effing chicken in the room. That’s a tall order, if using multiple chickens. I’d have to invite everyone I know over to eat said pile of chickens, and there would still be leftovers. Plus, I already have the terrific honeyed chicken recipe. Second, I figure medieval chickens would be smaller than our modern chickens. Probably not as small as game hens, but who doesn’t love a game hen? They’re a little unusual, and fun to serve.
But that’s probably me justifying my choice. Really, I just wanted a heap of hens.
With this recipe, I wanted to create something that would be found at the Inn. Rustic, hearty, and tasty. My version is likely far tastier than what the actual Inn would serve, but let’s pretend. I have a reputation as innkeep to uphold, after all. At any rate, I figured the ingredients had to be mostly local, with the possibility of something quirkier brought in by merchants on the road. Herbs, vegetables, mushrooms. Everything used, nothing wasted. The giblets go into gravy, and the picked-over hens would go towards making soup.
The end result is a wonderful, filling, rustic dinner that is as satisfying as that scene in the show. The hens are moist and richly flavored. Fragrant herbs and hearty mushrooms imbue the meat with that little something extra. But one of the real stars of this meal is the giblet gravy. I have to admit that until now I was always one of those people who sort of awkwardly disposed of the giblets. But no longer. This gravy is rich, creamy, and packed with the extra nutrients from the giblets. Just the sort of thing to power a pair of Murder Hobos on their way.
So there you have it. Visit the Inn for the food, but stay for the company.
Recipe for Game Hens, with giblet gravy
- 4 game hens (save the giblets)
- 4 Tbs. butter, divided
- 8 oz. small whole mushrooms
- 4 whole cloves garlic, peeled
- 1-2 onions, sliced thick
- 3-4 carrots, sliced
- 2 medium parsnips, sliced
- ~10 whole cloves garlic, unpeeled
- 1/4 cup finely chopped savory herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, marjoram, etc.
Melt 2 Tbs. butter in a small pan, then drizzle it over the vegetables. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and toss the veggies to coat them with the butter. Spread these over the bottom of a roasting pan large enough to hold the 4 game hens. Place the birds on top. Stuff each game hen with a few mushrooms and one peeled clove of garlic each.
Melt the remaining 2 Tbs. butter, then add the herbs and allow to sit together for a few minutes on very low heat. Remove from heat and brush onto the game hens, taking care to get the herbs onto the birds.
Cook for a little over an hour at 350F, or until the hens start to look slightly golden, and their juices run clear.
Remove the hens to a separate platter, tilting each to drain the excess juices out (mine were *very* juicy!); cover to keep warm. Scoop the veggies to a serving bowl with a slotted spoon, and keep warm while you make the gravy. Using a small ladle or deep spoon, gently collect the fat from the top of the drippings and discard. Use the remaining drippings as below to make the gravy.
Giblet Gravy Recipe
- 1 Tbs. salted butter
- giblets from 4 game hens, or 1 chicken
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 handful mushrooms, diced small
- ~1/4 cup flour
- drippings from hens
- 1-2 cups chicken broth
Cook the giblets in the melted butter until they are cooked through, then remove to a cutting board, saving the butter in the pan. When they are cooled enough to handle, dice the giblets very fine, discarding any chewy bits. Set aside. Add the garlic to the pan with the butter and cook for about a minute, then add the mushrooms. Cook until they are soft, another minute or two, then add the diced giblets back in.
Take the drippings from the hens, minus the skimmed fat, and add to the gravy pan. Toss with flour until you have a thick paste. Cook this over medium-low heat for several minutes, then gradually stir in the chicken broth until you have the consistency you desire. Serve alongside your hens, and enjoy!