Apricot-Balsamic-Mint Game Hens

We wanted to try something different and since we love spatchcock chicken, we thought trying the technique with Cornish game hens would be just as delicious. In case you are not familiar, spatchcock also known as butterflying refers to poultry or game that has been prepared for roasting or grilling by removing the backbone and breastbone of the bird and flattening it out before cooking. This allows it to cook more quickly and evenly with extra crispy skin. We grilled all eight game hens on our EVO gas grill with room to spare. We hope you enjoy the recipe below as much as we do. It starts with a bright and fresh orange marinade for the flattened little hens and ends with a sweet tart glaze made with apricot jam, balsamic vinegar, fresh mint and parsley and last but not least topped with lightly toasted, crunchy pistachios and tart Mediterranean *sumac.

Spatchcock Hen-finished 2

If you like lemon and chicken take a look at our spatchcock Tuscan “Meyer” Lemon Chicken. Please note what we did with the leftovers the next night (at the end of this post).

Spatchcock Hen-finished closeup

We made this recipe for 8 people, 1 hen per person which was more than enough. Depending on what else you serve 8 hens will feed 8-16. Although a whole hen seems like a large portion, they can be rather bony and as you can see from the end of this post leftovers are something to look forward to.

Generously salt on both sides of each hen and place in a non-reactive pan or jumbo Ziploc bag pouring marinade over all the hens, move around to coat well. Soak overnight turning once or twice to redistribute marinade. We prepped the hens in a foil lined baking tray and then transferred them to a Ziplock bag.

Spatchcock-Hen-marinatingSpatchcock-Hen-marinade

Prepare gas grill by heating on medium-low for 5-10 minutes. Place hens skin side up and grill on medium-low for 15-20 minutes.

Spatchcock-Hen-skin-up Spatchcock-Hen-skin-side-up

Turn skin side down and grill for an additional 15-20 minutes. If heat seems too high lower and cook more slowly.

Spatchcock-Hen-skin-down-grill

During the last 5 minutes generously brush glaze on exposed underside of the hens.

Spatchcock-Hen-Glaze Spatchcock-Hen-skin-down-glazed Spatchcock-Hen-skin-down-glazed-group

Turn the grill to low, turn the hens once more and brush the glaze on the now exposed golden brown skin side. Place the orange wedges on the grill, turning once to grill both sides. Keeping the hens on the still hot grill will lightly caramelize the underside. At this point keep them on just long enough to get some color on the oranges as you don’t want to burn the sugars in the glaze. The hens are done when the juices run clear, watch them as all grills heat differently.

Spatchcock-Hen-skin-up-garden Spatchcock-Hen-skin-up-glazed-group

Remove hens and oranges from grill, cut in half and arrange on a platter. Sprinkle hens with sumac, pistachios and garnish with whole parsley leaves, rest for 5-10 minutes. Serve with crispy oven roasted potatoes and a fresh arugula salad with avocado, Pecorino Romano and a light lemon vinaigrette.

Spatchcock Hen-finished 1

Spatchcock-Hen-crisp-potatoes Spatchcock Hen-arugula salad

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Apricot-Balsamic-Mint Game Hens

We made this recipe for 8 people, 1 hen per person which was more than enough. Depending on what else you serve 8 hens will feed 8-16. Although a whole hen seems like a large portion, they can be rather bony and as you can see from the end of this post leftovers are something to look forward to.

  • Prep Time: 24 hours
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 24 hours 45 minutes
  • Yield: 8-16 1x
Scale

Ingredients

  • Eight Cornish Game Hens
  • 2 oranges cut in quarters

Marinade

  • 2/3 C of fresh orange juice
  • Zest of two oranges
  • 2 T minced garlic (6 cloves)
  • 2 tsp crushed red peppers
  • Kosher salt

Glaze

  • 1 C apricot jam
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 T coarsely chopped fresh mint
  • 2 T coarsely chopped fresh parsley, plus whole leaves for garnish
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 C shelled, lightly toasted pistachios, coarsely chopped
  • 2 T ground sumac

Instructions

  1. Place the game hen breast side down on a cutting board. Using scissors or poultry shears, cut from the neck to the tailbone to remove the backbone exposing the inside of the hen. Make a small slit in the cartilage at the base of the breastbone to reveal the diamond shaped keel bone. Grab the bird with both hands on the ribs and open up like a book, facing down towards the cutting board. Remove the keel bone.
  2. Generously salt on both sides of each hen and place in a non-reactive pan or jumbo Ziploc bag pouring marinade over all the hens, move around to coat well. Soak overnight turning once or twice to redistribute marinade. We prepped the hens in a foil lined baking tray and then transferred them to a bag.
  3. Remove from the marinade and season again generously with salt and pepper on both side.
  4. Prepare gas grill by heating on medium-low for 5-10 minutes. Place hens skin side up and grill on medium-low for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Turn skin side down and grill for an additional 15-20 minutes. If heat seems too high lower and cook more slowly.
  6. During the last 5 minutes generously brush glaze on exposed underside of the hens.
  7. Turn the grill to low, turn the hens once more and brush the glaze on the now exposed golden brown skin side. Place the orange wedges on the grill, turning once to grill both sides. Keeping the hens on the still hot grill will lightly caramelize the underside. At this point keep them on just long enough to get some color on the oranges as you don’t want to burn the sugars in the glaze. The hens are done when the juices run clear, watch them as all grills heat differently.
  8. Remove hens and oranges from grill, cut in half and arrange on a platter. Sprinkle hens with sumac, pistachios and garnish with whole parsley leaves, rest for 5-10 minutes. Serve with crispy oven roasted potatoes and a fresh arugula salad with avocado, Pecorino Romano and a light lemon vinaigrette.

Notes

Glaze Adapted From | Bobby Flay

*Sumac: Sumacs are shrubs and small trees with fruits that form dense clusters of reddish drupes called sumac bobs. The dried drupes of some species are ground to produce a tangy deep-red purple spice used in Middle Eastern cuisine to add a lemony tart taste to salads or meat.

The next night we enjoyed the leftover hens and ingredients along with some additions; an arugula salad with garlicky goat cheese and starfruit, and sliced avocados with pistachios, parsley and fresh oranges.

Spatchcock Hen-Leftovers