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.
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).
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.
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.
Turn skin side down and grill for an additional 15-20 minutes. If heat seems too high lower and cook more slowly.
During the last 5 minutes generously brush glaze on exposed underside of the hens.
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.
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.
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.