Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Grilled BBQ Cornish Game Hens with Grapes

Grilled BBQ Cornish Game Hens with Grapes
Serves: 6
Grilled BBQ Cornish Game Hens with Grapes
Cornish Game Hens are not even hens and they are not game birds– they are small domestic hybrid chickens and can actually be a male or female. Who knew?

One food historian credits chicken mogul Donald John Tyson for creating the Rock Cornish game hen by crossbreeding White Rock hens and Cornish hens in 1965. His intent was allegedly to create a specialty item at a higher price that appealed to a fast-growing contingent of consumers referred to in our contemporary times as foodies.

However, other sources credit Alphonsine and Jacques Makowsky of Connecticut for developing this small bird some ten years earlier. Their intent was similar, to breed a small chicken with mostly white meat suitable for a single serving. The U.S. patent and trademark files show no ownership filings for the breed.

The game hens have a shorter growing span to adulthood, 28 to 30 days as opposed to 42 or more for regular chicken. It is half the size of a standard chicken, has more white meat and weighs an average of 1¼ pounds, bone-in—the perfect individual portion size.

It’s a great choice for a dinner party, as each person can have their own personal hen, and you don’t have to worry about who wants the thigh vs. breast on a giant roasted chicken. These are great served with roasted potatoes, sautéed spinach, stir-fried summer squash or a couscous salad. It’s a simple dish that’s certain to impress any dinner guest. This recipe riffs on the elements of traditional chicken salad: cucumber, grapes, walnuts and honey. Verjus, used in the vinaigrette, is the tart juice of unripe wine grapes; a lighter alternative to vinegar, it is available at specialty grocers.

For the Cornish game hens:
  • 6- 1¼ pound Cornish game hens
  • 6 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley or cilantro, stemmed

For the garnish:
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 bunch red grapes, separated into 6 smaller bunches

For the vinaigrette:
  • 1 large red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 med English cucumber, finely diced
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tb minced fresh ginger
  • 2 C Verjus
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 3 Tb honey
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ C walnut oil

Use a pair of kitchen shears to remove the backbone from each hen, then open hens and lay flat, skin-side up. Toss shallots, garlic, red pepper flakes and parsley or cilantro in a bowl. Using a blunt stick, such as chopsticks, lift the skin of the hen over the breasts and thighs and tuck mixture under the skin. Be careful to not tear the skin. Gently massage the marinade into the meat and move about with gentle pressure. If time allows, allow this to sit on birds for 1-2 hours, refrigerated.
Use the chopsticks to lift the skin and tuck in shallots et al 
Prepare a grill for cooking over medium-high heat. Lay hens skin-side down on grill and cook 2 minutes, then rotate hen 90 degrees to create hash marks on exterior and cook 2 minutes more. Flip hens and continue to cook until golden and a meat thermometer inserted into breast meat reads 160 degrees, about 20 minutes. Remove hens from grill and set aside to rest, 10 minutes.
Grilling the hen
Make the garnish: Add oil to a skillet, set over high heat, then add the grapes and cook, shaking the pan often to ensure even cooking, until skins blister slightly, 3-5 minutes.
Cooking the grapes
Make vinaigrette: Mix red bell pepper, cucumber, scallions, ginger, verjus, soy sauce, honey, kosher salt and walnut oil together in a bowl.
The vinaigrette
To serve: Ladle a generous amount of vinaigrette onto each plate. Place 1 hen on each plate and top with a small bunch of grapes.  

This pairs well with many wines such as Grenache, Syrah, Merlot or Sauvignon Blanc. An amazing, juicy and flavorful delight will surprise you and your friends.  Don't miss this simple throw-together BBQ recipe this summer!



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