One Pot Meals: Cast Iron Skillet Roasted Game Hens

by Pamela

one pot meals, dinner for two, cast iron skillet recipes, sunday dinner ideas

Your grandmother used one and her grandmother used one and maybe even your mother used one. No, I’m not talking about erotic literature or a riding crop (well, unless they grew up on a cattle ranch) but this little secret item is small and black like those two little items I just mentioned. In fact, it gets the same kind of juices flowing as the book and riding crop do. What am I talking about? A cast iron skillet. Don’t be fooled…that simple looking piece of black iron can makes a delicious one pot meal that will be the perfect intro for a hedonistic dinner for two.

This time of year, more than any other, it seems that one pot meals are what everyone is looking for. It’s probably because school is back in session, everyone has lots of activities to do and with the days getting shorter it feels more and more like there’s not enough time to get the things done you want to do. Plus, it’s a lot easier to throw a bunch of ingredients into a pot and let them cook for a few hours when it’s not 100 degrees in your kitchen already.

But did you ever consider the idea of one pot meals coming from your cast iron skillet? Really! Cast iron skillet recipes are usually those that revolve around cooking steaks, cornbread, fried chicken or sausage and gravy. It seems that the cookware we use most often is inversely proportional to the weight of it. A well seasoned cast iron skillet can be used for much more than making these few things.

Instead of using your usual roasting pan, for making your favorite roasted chicken recipe, how about making it in your cast iron skillet? I got the idea for this great dinner for two recipe from an article in the NY Times article on cast iron skillet roasted chicken. I decided that I really wanted to make this an ‘official’ dinner for two as well as one of those easy to make one pot meals so I used smaller Cornish game hens and filled the rest of the skillet with baby finger potatoes and tiny brussels sprouts. Each person gets one bird and half of the veggies. One pan, a couple of knives, a cutting board and dinner is served.

Delicious Sunday dinner ideas - cast iron skillet roasted chicken

Dinner for two is typically the theme that I use when trying to come up with Sunday dinner ideas. Of course, the whole roasted chicken dinner thing is probably one of the more popular Sunday dinner ideas out there. But since there’s only two of us in our house, I particularly like being able to make dinner for two that leaves little to no leftovers. This is one of those recipes. Yes, we did have a bit of the meat leftover, but it was just enough for Craig to take to work the next day for lunch.

This dinner recipe is definitely going to be making regular appearances in my kitchen, and not just on Sunday. It really is that easy to make. I think I’m going to try some different variations with pork and beef cuts. You’ve got to use something with a bit of fat on it, but not a lot. Toss in a couple of vegetables and maybe a little pork fat (or not…you could always use a little vegetable oil if it’s needed), some herbs and you’ve got a delicious dinner for two that’s easy to make and even easier to clean up…since it’s just one pot.

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Recipe: Skillet Roasted Game Hens


  • 2 1 1/2 Pound Game Hens (thawed, rinsed and patted dry)
  • 1/2 Pound Baby Fingerling Potatoes
  • 1 Pound Tiny Brussels Sprouts (thick ends trimmed)
  • 3 Strips Thick Cut Bacon (chopped)
  • 3 Cloves Garlic (sliced thin)
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Kosher Salt
  • 2 Tablespoons Herbs de Provence
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 1/2 Lemon
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil


  1. Pre-heat oven to 500 degrees Farenheit with cast iron skillet in the oven while it’s pre-heating.
  2. This step is optional: place the hens on a large plate and coat skin with the 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt. Place into the refrigerator, uncovered, and leave there for 1 hour. Prior to cooking, remove chickens from refrigerator and thoroughly rinse with water and pat dry.
  3. If you don’t do this step, only use 1/2 tablespoon of salt and sprinkle all over hens and set aside. (No rinsing required.)
  4. Regardless of which way you salt the birds you need to flatten the legs on them. Gently pull the legs away from the body so that they become dis-jointed and lie flat on either side of the body.
  5. Next rub 1/2 tablespoon olive oil all over each hen, followed by 1 tablespoon of the herbs onto and inside of each hen and sprinkle the tops with the pepper.
  6. Cut the lemon in half again and place 1 piece of lemon inside each of the hens.
  7. Pierce the potatoes, with a fork, toss them into a bowl with about 1/2″ of water and cook for 2 minutes on high in the microwave.
  8. Remove the pan from the oven and drop bacon pieces onto one half of the pan.
  9. Place the chickens into the other half of the pan, breast side up. Make sure to place the legs and thighs flat against the bottom of the pan.
  10. Put the skillet back into the oven and cook for 15 minutes.
  11. Remove the pan from the oven and add the potatoes and garlic slices over 1/2 of the bacon pieces and the brussels sprouts over the other half of the bacon pieces. Toss the potatoes and brussel sprouts with the bacon pieces to coat them in some of the fat.
  12. Cook for 20 minutes longer or until the juices from the legs and thighs run clear when pierced.

Quick notes

You will need to use at least a 12″ cast iron skillet for this recipe.

Refrigerating the chicken, with the coating of salt, dries out the skin a bit making it more crunchy when you roast it.


You could use a small, 3-4 pound, chicken for this recipe instead of the Cornish Game Hens. If using chicken, you will have to cut the skin (between the legs) before dis-joining them.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 35 minute(s)

Diet tags: Gluten free

Number of servings (yield): 2

Culinary tradition: USA (General)

Recipe by Pamela Braun.[/print_this]

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me November 19, 2012 at 5:49 pm

I just prepared this for dinner with my husband and he said it should have been saved for a special occassion. This from a non-loving Brussel sprout kind of guy. I did have to make a few alterations. I used regular-sized sprouts and cut them in half. I didn’t have a lemon so that was omitted and used a Mediterranean spice blend and it still came out company-worthy. I can’t recommend the dish enough. Good job!

Sylvia W October 21, 2012 at 6:53 pm

As a long time fan of cast iron pans, cornish hens and mildly risque humor, you just made my day 😉 As a recent (well, one year) widow I will be trying this in a smaller size pan for one, but I have no doubt I will enjoy it immensely as all of the ingredients are ones I thoroughly enjoy. Loving the blog – keep up the good work, and by all means don’t let the occasional snippy comment stop you from sharing your uniquely delightful humor 😉

Pamela October 22, 2012 at 9:41 am

Thanks for the kind words Sylvia!

I’m so glad that I could make you smile. Good food and a few giggles is what I try to do with this blog. Life is serious enough… 😉 I hope you enjoy this recipe. I plan on using my cast iron skillets a whole lot more in the coming months. CHEERS!

Julia | October 19, 2012 at 3:14 pm

This meal looks so gorgeous! Saw your photo on Food Gawker.

Jacinda October 19, 2012 at 11:14 am

You know, I just wanted a recipe to use in my new cast iron skillet, I don’t remember typing “Please let me wade through a bunch of sexism to get to the flippin’ recipe.”

Pamela October 19, 2012 at 3:15 pm


Not sure that I see my post the same way that you do, but I hope you enjoy the recipe. It really is delicious.

Meanness October 19, 2012 at 4:33 am

I am 70 years old, and a cast iron skillet has always been a basic in my kitchen . I recently cleared out the family farmhouse and brought home my grandmother ‘s cast iron skillet. If only it could talk! It is well seasoned from many family meals. I plan to give it to my daughter, and I will print this recipe to go with it.

Pamela October 19, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Meanness…you have TOTALLY made my day! Thank you.

I would love to hear those stories too. 😉

Jessica / Green Skies and Sugar Trips October 18, 2012 at 9:36 am

Sweet baby Jesus in a manger!!! Like I needed one more meal that I HAVE to pin, and actually MAKE!!! This just topped the list!!!! Pam you are the best!! And I officially need to go buy a Cast Iron Skillet!

Pamela October 19, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Jessica, yes – you MUST make this. Something this delicious should not be so easy to make.

Bunny October 17, 2012 at 5:02 pm

I desperately want a cast iron skillet… When I moved home, my mom was putting hers into THE DISHWASHER! I was horrified.

Pamela October 17, 2012 at 7:14 pm

Bunny, you can probably find an inexpensive one at a garage sale. Plus, it will already be well on its way to being seasoned…assuming they didn’t wash it in the dishwasher like mom. 🙂

Jenny October 17, 2012 at 4:57 pm

That is a gorgeous meal and I love one pot meals!

Pamela October 17, 2012 at 7:15 pm

Thanks Jenny!

I’m officially hooked on making my one pot meals in the cast iron skillet now. Lots of good crispy stuff…not all that mushy stuff.

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