Stone-Seared Cornish Game Hens Recipe
Delicious chicken prepared over a campfire.
Two 2-lb. cornish game hens, rinsed, patted dry, and butterflied*
1 tbsp garam masala**
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly milled black pepper, to taste
Yogurt for serving
Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
Rhubarb chutney or apricot-cherry chutney for serving
Several heavy, preferably flat, stones or bricks wrapped in foil
* Once one becomes comfortable with the tidy art of butterflying chickens, the temptation will be to do so often. It’s an excellent way to make quick work of the bird. Begin by trimming the first two wing joints on each wing with a chef’s knife or a cleaver. Using kitchen shears, cut along each side of the backbone and remove it. Flip the bird over. At the base of the breastbone, locate the white knob of cartilage on top of the long, spear-shaped keel bone. Cut a small slit in the knob, then flatten the chicken. The keel bone should pop out. Remove it completely with one’s fingers or trim it with a knife. Now cut the bird completely in half down the centre. Voilà — butterfly.
** Although garam masala can be purchased from Asian markets for a song, one might prefer the vibrant flavour of a fresh spice blend, as we do. To make one’s own, combine the following in a dry skillet over a medium-high heat: 1-1/2 tbsp cumin seed, 1-1/2 tbsp coriander seed, 1-1/2 tsp black peppercorns, 1-1/2 tsp cardamom seed (green hulls discarded), 1 tsp whole cloves, 2 cinnamon sticks (broken into pieces), and 1 bay leaf. Toast the spices until they are lightly fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Grind the mixture in a spice grinder, then stir in 3/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg. Tip the mixture into an airtight jar and store it in a cool, dark pantry for a period of up to 3 months.
Step 1: Prepare a high-heat fire, with the flames licking the grill grate. Place 2 large castiron skillets (alternatively, cook the hens in batches and serve them hot, warm, or cold) upon the grill grate to preheat.
Step 2: Rub the hens all over with garam masala, then coat them with the oil. Season them generously with salt and pepper. Transfer the hens to the pan, skin side down. Place the foil-covered stones on top. Adjust the heat to medium-high. Cook, turning the hens once halfway through with tongs or one’s own gloved hand, until the skin is no longer pink and the juices run clear when pierced with a knife, 20-25 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes, while one prepares the yogurt.
Step 3: Arrange the meat on china plates and garnish with cilantro. Add a dollop each of yogurt and chutney.
Reprinted with permission from Sarah Huck and Jaimee Young’s Campfire Cookery (2011 Stewart, Tabori & Chang).