Cornish Game Hen

This is an old-fashioned special occasion dish that is making a big comeback. We think of it as the Zsa Zsa Gabor of the Poultry page. If you don't know who Zsa Zsa is, Google it! (Hint: remember "Green Acres?") Well, we're barely old enough to remember it, and that's the point. We haven't seen this bird on a plate ever - until we saw it recently at a Kansas City Barbecue Society barbecue cook-off.

Unlike quail and phesant, these hens really do taste like chicken, but the hen has a formal presentation all its own. We like to splatchcock it (remove the backbone and flatten it) to be sure it cooks evenly on the grill. For a competition presentation, we would cut them in half before grilling.

We plan on one hen per person for big appetites, and half for normal or small appetites. Everybody gets a leg!

Sour Cream Smoked Cornish Game Hen

1 16 oz container of sour cream (low-fat is OK)

1 4-5 oz piece of parmesean/reggiano, chunked

1 tsp Worchestershire sauce

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp white pepper

dash Crystal Hot Sauce

Clean and splatchcock the birds. In a food processor with a metal blade, process the parmesean-reggiano until it is grated very fine. Add the other ingredients and pulse about 5 times to mix well. Coat the birds in the sour cream mixture, and let them rest in the fridge for at least an hour - two is better. There's just something about the combination of sour cream (and buttermilk) with poultry that is magic!

Start a medium-hot two-level fire (one hot side, one cool side) and grill the birds, turning, on the cool side for 40-45 mins. The internal tem should reach 165 degrees (they're so small, the temp won't rise much when they rest.) To make sure they're tender, twist a leg bone: it will move freely when the hen is done.

Menu Suggestions:

Hummos with pita bread

Tabouli Salad with Tomato and Cucumber

Lemon granita

Barbecued Chicken

Chicken (or Beef) Satay

Jerk Chicken

Grilled Greek Chicken and Pitas

Vietnamese Grilled Chicken

Roasted Chicken and Corn Salad

Cornish Game Hen

Grilled Turkey

Cranberry Glazed Turkey Tenderloins

Turkey Roulade with Boudin

Jambalaya with Grilled Chicken and Smoked Sausage

Hot Wings


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This is a very fancy-looking special-occasion dish with a big WOW factor - but it's no more difficult to make than chicken! Be aware, however, that the "little" birds will cook at least as long a a big ol' hen, so plan ahead!