Pho - Vietnamese Soup

Pho - Vietnamese Soup
One of our favorite dishes - Pho

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Rotisserie Cornish Game Hens with Roasted Vegetables

The Cornish game hen is a young immature chicken (usually 5 to 6 weeks of age), weighing not more than 2 pounds ready-to-cook weight.  It is a hybrid chicken sold whole. Despite the name, it's not a game bird, but actually a type of domestic chicken. Though the bird is called a "hen," it can be either male or female. In addition to commanding a higher price, the game hens have a shorter growing span, 28 to 30 days as opposed to 42 or more for a regular chicken.

We eat Cornish hens quite often.  Although a little more expensive than the whole chicken, based on their size, they're still super inexpensive and easy to roast, grill or try this method if you have a rotisserie.  The hens were juicy and delicious as the meat was falling off of the bone.  The vegetables were like something from a pot roast, cooked to perfection.

2 Cornish Hens
Spice rub instead of just salt - use your favorite spice rub on the hens, making sure you get it under the skin of the breast and in the cavity of the hen.
Pepper to taste
olive oil
Aluminum foil drip pans (9" x 13", or whatever fits your grill)
2 potatoes, cut into chunks
4 carrots, cut into chunks 
2 heads of garlic
2 whole jalapenos

Pre-salting the hens:

One day before cooking, rinse and dry the hens. Carefully run your finger under the skin on the breast to loosen it. Sprinkle each bird all over with 1 tsp of salt - I get some inside the cavity, some under the loosened skin on the breast, and then coat the outside with the rest, concentrating on the thick part of the breasts and the legs. Put the chickens in a pan where they have a little space around them, wrap in plastic wrap, and let rest in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

Prepare the grill:

Set your grill up for rotisserie cooking at high heat. For our Viking grill this means turning the two outer burners (burners 1 and 6) to high, and turning the infrared burner to high. Then I put my drip pans in the middle, over the unlit burners.

Cooking the hens:

Put the spit on the grill, put your foil pans with the veggies under the hens, and start the spit spinning. Cook with the lid closed. It will take for 30-45 minutes, depending on the size of the hens. (It took 35 minutes for my 1.5lb hens). Check the internal temp on the hens after 20 minutes, and every 10 minutes thereafter - you want 160*F to 165*F in the breast, and 170*F to 180*F in the thigh. Remove the spit from the grill (while wearing gloves!), and remove the hens from the spit. Cover the hens with foil, and let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Make a sauce from the drippings (Optional):

If the drippings aren't burnt, remove the drip pans from the grill. Skim off the fat, then scrape the rest of the drippings into a small saucepan. Add one cup of homemade chicken stock, and bring to a simmer. Add any juices that come out of the chicken during the resting and carving to the saucepan. Simmer until slightly thickened, then add salt and pepper to taste. (Note: watch out for burnt or sooty drippings, especially if you cooked on a charcoal grill. Either skip the drippings, or just make a sauce by reducing some homemade stock, and adding the juices from carving.)

Final prep and serve:

Cut the hens in half - I find a half a hen to be a good serving for an adult, with one hen per person if they're a big eater.  On a cutting board, run a chef's knife through the cavity and split the chicken along the backbone, then turn it over and split through the breast.

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