Spatchcocked Game Hen with Spicy Apricot Glaze
Serves 4 to 6
The spatchcock process of removing the backbone of the hen helps to shorten the cooking time and assists in even cooking. Placing the dark meat toward the hotter part of the fire and the breast meat to the cooler part ensures that the dark and the white meat will be cooked to the proper doneness.
What you need:
4 Rock Cornish game hens
3 quarts Chicken Brine (recipe to follow)
6 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon espelette pepper
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
1½ teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated garlic
3 tablespoons salted butter, softened
1 cup Apple Spray (recipe to follow), in a spray bottle, for the grill
1 cup Spicy Apricot Glaze (recipe to follow)
What to do:
Prepare the chicken brine 24 to 48 hours before you plan to brine, and refrigerate.
To brine the game hens, rinse and place the hens in an 8-quart plastic or stainless steel container. Holding a strainer over the container, pour in enough chilled Chicken Brine to completely cover the game hens. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours.
To make the rub, combine the salt, espelette, pepper, coriander, and garlic in a small bowl and mix thoroughly. Reserve 1½ teaspoons for the Spicy Apricot Glaze and set aside.
In a separate small bowl, combine the butter and 3 teaspoons of the rub and mix until smooth.
Prepare the Spicy Apricot Glaze while the hens are brining.
Prepare the Apple Spray while the hens are brining.
Once brined, remove and pat the game hens completely dry with paper towels.
Using poultry shears to spatchcock the hens, remove the backbones from the game hens and lay them out flat. Rub the seasoned butter over and under the skin of the hens, sliding your fingers beneath the skin to gently separate it from the meat. Dust both sides of each game hen evenly with 1 tablespoon of rub. Let the hens rest 1 hour at room temperature.
When you are ready to cook, heat the grill to 400º F, using the direct grilling method.
Place the game hens skin-side-down over the hot coals, close the grill lid, and cook 10 minutes.
Spray with the Apple Spray to moisten, rotate the birds 90 degrees, and cook an additional 10 minutes. Spray again, and flip the birds so they are skin-side-up. Spray the skin side to moisten and cook an additional 10 minutes, or until a meat thermometer placed in the thickest part of the breast reads 170º F, and the dark meat is 175º to 180º F.
Transfer the game hens to a pan or clean work surface, and brush both sides with the Spicy
Apricot Glaze. Return them to the grill, skin-side-up, and cook 5 minutes to set the glaze.
Transfer the birds to a platter and let them rest 5 minutes before serving.
Yields 3¼ quarts
3 quarts water
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon kosher salt
½ cup granulated sugar
1 large carrot, rough chop
1 celery stalk, leaves included, rough chop
¼ yellow onion, medium rough chop
½ bunch Italian flat leaf parsley, torn in half
½ bunch fresh thyme
1 to 2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
In a large bowl or 4-quart plastic container, combine 3 quarts of water with the salt and sugar.
Stir until most of the salt and sugar are dissolved. Add the remaining ingredients, and
refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours before using.
Spicy Apricot Glaze
½ cup apricot preserves
¼ cup chicken stock
1/8 cup minced jalapeño
1½ teaspoons Game Hen Rub
½ teaspoon lemon juice
To make the Spicy Apricot Glaze, place all ingredients in a small bowl and stir until well
incorporated. Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to use.
Yields 2¾ cups
2 cups apple juice
½ cup Caramel Simple Syrup (recipe to follow)
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients and pour into a spray bottle. Apple spray will keep,
refrigerated, for 4 to 5 days. It will be used on the grill to moisten the meat.
Caramel Simple Syrup
Yields 1 cup
3/4 cup sugar
Combine the sugar and 2 tablespoons water in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over
medium-low heat. Do not stir the mixture, as this will cause crystallization. Cook 3 to 5 minutes.
As the water evaporates, the sugar will begin to caramelize. Once the sugar turns a medium
caramel color, reduce the heat to low, add 1/4 cup water, and stir to fully incorporate. Remove
from the heat and let the syrup cool before pouring into a lidded, heat-proof container.
Caramel simple syrup will keep, refrigerated, in a covered container for 3 months.