Breast of Young Hen by Thomas Lents

Alexandra Paretta

Just in time for Thanksgiving, we were fortunate enough to receive a recipe from Chef Thomas Lents of Sixteen, in Chicago, that encompasses the warmth, richness, and brilliant flavours of the Autumn season.

Sixteen has been recognized as one of Chicago’s finest restaurants since 2010. But when Thomas Lents entered the kitchen in 2013, his talent took Sixteen to new heights. Upon his first year as head chef, the restaurant was awarded with 2 Michelin-stars for the first time – which have since remained.

Chef Thomas Lents uses French techniques and a modern approach with a calculated precision to create his own brand of American cuisine. This holiday season, take the vision of this brilliant chef into your own kitchen and prepare it for family and friends alike. They won’t be disappointed.

Chef Lents on the dish: 

“This dish highlights the importance of clean cooking techniques. It was important to mirror the attention to detail in the cooking in the style of plating.”

Hen Cuisson

50g butter
15g shallots (large dice)
15g garlic (peeled, germ removed)
15g leek (large dice)
120g Noilly Prat®
Sweat vegetables in butter until soft with very little color.
Add Noilly Prat® and reduce by half.
Add boullion and reduce by half.
Finish with truffle butter.
Chill and reserve to cook the then.

Hen Brine

4000g filtered water
280g salt
10g black peppercorns
1 garlic head cut in half
75g of onion cut in quarters
2 springs of thyme
2 springs of tarragon
Bring water and salt to a simmer.
Add all other ingredients and allow to cool.
Store in the refrigerator.

For Hen

Guinea hen, gutted with head on
1/2 head of garlic
2 sprigs of thyme
2 sprigs of tarragon
Clean the cavity and feeder sack from the bird, leaving it as intact as possible.
Trim the feet leaving one toe.
Fill the cavity with garlic, thyme, tarragon, parsley, and garlic.
Truss the bird well, cutting the leg tendon to allow the feet to bend.
Brine bird for 12 hours.
Drain and place bird in a bag with 100g of hen cuisson.
Seal and cook at 60°C for 3 hours, directly prior to service.
Allow to rest for service.

For the Leek

4 Holland leeks
20g shallots, sliced thin
5g garlic, sliced
20g butter
15g truffle juice
20g Noilly Prat®
50g chicken boullion
Salt and pepper to taste
Wash the leeks well.
Leaving some of the root end, peel and trim until 2cm in diameter and 7cm long.
In the butter, sweat the shallot and garlic.
De-glaze with the truffle juice and bring au sec (nearly dry), add the vermouth and bring au sec and boullion to a simmer.
Adjust seasoning and place into a bag with the trimmed leeks.
Allow to cool, seal and cook at 85ºC for 2-3 hours, or until very very tender.

For Lemon Purée

100g lemon confit, seed removed
90g reserved lemon liquid
50g lemon oil
50g citron vinegar
Sugar to taste
Quarter the lemon confit and remove all seeds.
Squeeze out the liquid and reserve.
Roughly chop.
Purée chopped lemon and vinegar, adding reserved lemon liquid to form a thick paste.
Emulsify in lemon oil and adjust seasoning with sugar.
Pass through a fine tamis and reserve.

Glaze for Hen

100g liquid from cooked hen
60g Noilly Prat®
Créme fraÎche as needed
5g sliced garlic
10g sliced shallot
Cornstarch slurry to taste
Prior to weighing cooking liquids, bring all to a light simmer to produce scum.
Skim very well and pass through paper.
Reduce vermouth with garlic and shallot by 75%.
Strain and add to weighed cooking liquid.
Reduce this by half and taste for seasoning.
Thicken slightly with slurry and reserve to finish hen.


To Finish:

1 cooked hen
Hen glaze as needed
6 truffle punches
Hen skin, chopped as needed
Chives, chopped as needed
Black pepper mignonette as needed
1/2 braised leek
Egg yolk cooked and frozen as needed
Chopped truffle as needed
3 red ribbon sorrel
Lemon confit purée as needed
Reduced chicken jus as needed
Truffle vinaigrette as needed
Chicken bouillon as needed
Truffle juice as needed
Truffle butter as needed
Chicken jus as needed

Place the hen in a large cocotte with additional garnish and cooking liquid (not glaze). Bring to a simmer and steep for several minutes. Present to the table. Return to the kitchen and remove breast, reserving thigh for second service and removing skin. Trim the breast to 40-50g portions while maintaining breast shape and removing tendon.

Bring hen glaze to a simmer. Add créme fraÎche to thicken and form a heavy glaze. Warm breast in the glaze and coat well. Remove from the pan and garnish with chopped skin, truffle punches, chopped chives, and pepper mignonette.

For a glaze with truffle juice, chicken bouillon and jus, truffle vinaigrette and butter: Warm breast and glaze leek cut in half lengthwise. Remove and pour additional glaze over the top. Grate frozen egg yolk over the top and sprinkle with chopped truffle. Garnish with leaves of red ribbon sorrel.

Alternate dots of lemon confit puréee and reduced chicken jus across the table. Carefully place the breast on one side and the leek on the other.

Neil Burger

Breast of young hen, Australian black truffle, lemon confit, and braised leek by chef Thomas Lents of Sixteen. © Neil Burger