IT’S GRILLING SEASON! ROCK CORNISH GAME HENS PAIRED WITH GRILLED FRESH PEACHES MAKE AN EASY AND LIGHT DINNER. PAIR THEM WITH A GARDEN SALAD AND FINISH WITH ICE CREAM OR S’MORES FOR A DELICIOUS BACKYARD BARBECUE ON A HOT SUMMER DAY!
Rock Cornish Game Hens—you know what they are.
They are small chickens which are almost always found in the freezer section. As a matter of fact, I have never seen a fresh Rock Cornish Game Hen. We used to make jokes that they were “Rock” game hens because that’s how they came, frozen like a rock.
The breed is a cross between the Cornish Chicken and the White Plymouth Rock, hence the name. The hens are small, less than 2 pounds. They are sold young and are more tender than older chickens. Although they are often served one to a person, I think that a single hen makes the perfect serving for two.
And they are great to grill. They don’t take as long as regular chicken to cook and there is no need to choose between legs and breast!
The skin on a Cornish Game Hen is thinner than that of a regular chicken and more apt to tear so I like to spatchcock mine. Spatchcocking is another word for butterflying. You cut the chicken in half by removing the backbone which enables you to flatten it out, allowing for quicker cooking and a crisper skin.
After you have removed the backbone, use your hand or the flat side of a knife to press down on the hen and flatten it out.
Once spatchcocked, I return it to the refrigerator uncovered for an hour or more to dry the skin a bit.
Just before cooking I insert two metal skewers into the game hen. This will help it to cook faster and it also means I can turn the hen over using the skewers, without touching the skin and potentially tearing it.
Prepare the grill by placing the hot coals in the center and leaving a perimeter on the side wide enough to place the game hen. You will start by cooking the hen over the coals to brown the skin and then move it to the side to continue cooking over indirect heat.
I prepared a mixture of olive oil, herbs and spices to brush over the hens while they cook. Be careful when you do this as the oil may cause a flame up. You don’t want to burn the skins.
Once you have browned the hens, move them over to the side for 30-45 minutes to finish cooking. How long they take depends on how hot your grill is. You want to make sure they are cooked through to a temperature of 160 degrees.
About ten minutes before the hens are finished, cut one or two peaches in half. Remove the pits and rub a little olive oil over the peaches.
Put them flesh side down over the hot coals for a minute or two to get some nice grill marks and then move them over to the side to finish cooking. A large peach will take about 4 minutes on a side, smaller ones a little less time.
Remove the skewers from the hens and cut them in half down the breast bone. Serve them with one or two peach halves, topped with some ricotta cheese and drizzled with a little honey.
ROCK CORNISH GAME HEN WITH GRILLED PEACHES
- 2 Rock Cornish Game Hens
- ¼ c olive oil
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp salt
- 2-4 ripe peaches
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ¼ c to ½ c ricotta cheese
- Using a sharp knife score the flesh of the game hens along both sides of the backbone then use kitchen shears or a knife to cut the back away from both sides.
- Turn the hens over and using the flat side of the knife or your hands, press down on the breastbones to break the bone and let the hens lie flat.
- Put the hens on a plate and let dry in the refrigerator for an hour.
- Prepare the grill. For a charcoal grill, pile hot coals in the center and leave a ring around the perimeter large enough for the hens to cook from indirect heat.
- Mix together the herbs, spices, and oil in a small jar. Brush the hens on both sides lightly with the oil.
- Place the hens breast side down over the hot coals in the center and let cook 2-3 minutes until the skin has crisped and browned. Using the skewers (and oven mitts!), turn the hens over and let cook over the hot coals with the breast side up for a further 2-3 minutes.
- Remove the hens to the side of the grill, cover and let cook for 30-45 minutes or until the temperature of the thickest part of the meat registers 160 degrees. Baste lightly from time to time with the oil and spice mixture.
- When the hens are almost cooked, rub olive oil all over the peaches and place flesh side down over the hot coals for 1-2 minutes until the flesh is seared with grill marks. Move the peaches to the cool side of the grill and continue to cook for 3-4 minutes a side.
- To serve, remove the skewers from the hens and cut them in half along the breastbone. Place one half on each plate along with one to two peach halves, flesh side up. Add a dollop of ricotta to the center of each peach and drizzle with honey.