Just Like Your Love Life: Agrodolce (Sour & Sweet) – Cornish Game Hen Agrodolce

Cornish Game Hen Agrodolce

One of the most familiar (and enjoyable) flavor combinations to many cultures – sour and sweet or, as the Italians call it, agrodolce.  There is something about tartness and sweetness that just makes you want more.  Think Sour Patch Kids, Pisco or Whiskey Sours or your favorite Chinese take-out order.  Yes, sweet and sour is everywhere.

A traditional agrodolce is very basic and usually only includes vinegar, sugar and maybe wine.  Similar to the French gastrique, agrodolce was thought to have been brought to Sicily from the Arabs.  We took a few other sour/sweet combos and added them to our basic sauce, just to up the flavor a few notches.  Let me tell you folks, this is a winner.  Thanks to the amazing vinegar sauce we ate at Prune a while back, we figured the addition of raisins and cornichons wouldn’t hurt. In fact, we wished we had made more of the sauce just to eat it by itself.

This agrodolce would work well with many other things besides cornish game hen such as pork, chicken or fish.  Get a nice crust or crispy skin on any of those and the sauce will meld perfectly with it.  We hope you give this a try.

Cornish Game Hen Agrodolce


  • 2 Cornish Game Hens
  • salt &  pepper
  • peperoncino
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock (or veggie stock)
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2/3 cup white wine
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • juice of 1/2 lemon (reserve the half of lemon to add to sauce)
  • 3 heaping teaspoons of peach/orange or apricot jam (like Bonne Maman)
  • 1/4 cup raisins or currants
  • 10 pitted kalamata olives, cut in half
  • 5 cornichons/gherkins (sliced thinly in rounds)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons pignoli nuts, toasted

What to do:

  1. Spatchcock the cornish game hen – at best flatten it out – Step 3.  Rub Cornish Game Hen liberally with salt and pepper and grill on outdoor or indoor grill until done (time will depend on size).
  2. Sauté onion, shallots and garlic until a bit soft – about 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add stock, wine, vinegar, lemon juice with the lemon and mustard and simmer until reduced by 1/2.
  4. Strain the sauce through a sieve to remove the onions, shallots and garlic.  Add strained sauce back to the pan. Add the raisins, jam, olives and corninchons and continue to reduce again by half.
  5. Turn off heat and stir in cold butter.
  6. Using a meat cleaver or sharp chefs knife, chop hens in half.  Serve a half of game hen on a plate and spoon sauce on the sides.  Garnish with some raisins, olives, cornichons (all from the sauce) and pignoli nuts.  Enjoy!

Cornish Game Hen Agrodolce

28 thoughts on “Just Like Your Love Life: Agrodolce (Sour & Sweet) – Cornish Game Hen Agrodolce

  1. Had a great meal at PRUNE a while back.
    I love the combo of raisins and olives together, sort of like a caponata with the vinegar (minus the eggplant).
    I never buy Cornish hens. I will try them!

  2. Beautiful styling and photos. I love Cornish hens – they are so delicious and easy to prepare. This recipe sounds soooo good, I think I’ll be making an early grocery run tomorrow. Yum!

  3. I love agrodolce. I have a recipe inspired by Lorenza di Medici that finishes the sauce with bitter chocolate instead of butter. It’s a surprisingly amazing sauce.

    You’re reminding me how much a enjoy small birds too…

    1. Hey Jen! Just curious as to why Cornish hens are a pain to you? Is it cooking them? That is why spatchcocking them is the only good method to cook chicken or hens. Perfectly moist and crispy every time.

  4. mmmm..i like complex flavours like sweet and sour only when it is done well and this looks so good. it’s almost as though i can smell the hen off the screen. yum yum! x

  5. agrodulce… nice. This looks really earthy, given the dried fruits and nuts too.

    Yes, it is like sweet n sour chicken. I recently made a tart plum ketchup and ate it over fried chicken and honey. Sweet and sour… great pairing.

  6. What a scrumptious plate! I love the sweet and sour flavors of agrodolce. Yours, paired with the succulent cornish game hen and olives and pine nuts, looks like a masterpiece. Nicely done!

  7. Normally I’m not tempted by sweet n’ sour, but I love the yin-yang of the ingredient list and there definitely seems to be more agro or savory than dolce. There’s no arguing that it is a beautiful execution and one that I’m inspired to try. You may have converted me.

  8. You don’t have to tell me that mixing sweet and sour is a winner. I love that combo (just like I love sweet and salty).
    I’m also a huge lover of cornish hen, so this recipe couldn’t be more perfect.

  9. This looks fabulous! I’m a big fan of the sweet and sour thing, I’ve been thinking of cooking cornish game hen for a few days and this recipe might be the one. Love the pictures too. So bright and clear.

  10. Funny you mention sour patch kids as I sit here chomping down on them. They are by far my favorite candy of all times too.

    You are reminding me I have not made cornish game hens in ages. Hmmm….off to the butcher shop errr…maybe tomorrow it is getting close to bed time.

    Looks awesome!

  11. It’s certainly an intriguing dish–and gorgeously plated, I must say. Cornish game hens have always intrigued me but I could never convince the husband to try them–perhaps this could be a fun recipe to save for the winter.

    Just found your site, and I’m in love–and I think we have the same, or at least similar, white bowls (ours are from Italy) that we use to highlight so many of our dishes.

  12. i have just got back from a few days fiendishly hot but wonderful days in Sicily where we enjoyed a little carnival of agrodolce, I am a fan.
    That looks like a pretty perfectly roasted hen and a most delicious plateful

  13. Thanks for visiting TLH!

    You have an amazing home here on the next and your photographs are an invitation to your table! Looking forward to coming back for more.

  14. Love this recipe.I have just been given some Pomegranate Mollasas and it would be good to add to this recipe too! It’s on my blog. I love yours too!

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