Grilled Cornish Game Hens Recipe with Spiced Cherry Marinade

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Photo By Jeremy Ball
This Grilled Cornish Game Hens Recipe With Spiced Cherry Marinade is a special dinner fit for a holiday celebration.

Award-winning chef Bradley Ogden presents his first cookbook in over a decade. Holiday Dinners with Bradley Ogden (Running Press, 2011) includes 150 cherished recipes for a range of winter holidays — Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s — in one delicious guide for making the most memorable meals for the most special occasions. In this excerpt, find a guide for a very special holiday meal, a Cornish game hen recipe. 

Grilled Cornish Game Hens Recipe With Spiced Cherry Marinade

Indian long peppers, also known as Pippali long peppers, can be found at most Asian, Indian, or Middle Eastern grocers. Their spicy and pungent flavor complements the sweet cherries and the gaminess of the hens.

Makes 4 servings

1 1/2 cups organic black cherry juice
1/2 cup dried organic cherries
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 Indian long peppers or 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 lemons, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4  cup olive oil
4 (1-pound) Cornish game hens, butterflied (see note)

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, simmer the juice and cherries until reduced by half. Purée until smooth and set aside.

In a small nonstick skillet over medium-low heat, toast the coriander seed, fennel seed, mustard seed, red pepper flakes, and Indian long peppers or peppercorns until lightly browned and fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the spices to a spice grinder and grind until smooth. Place the ground spices in a medium bowl, add the cherry purée, lemon, turmeric, salt, and pepper; set aside.

Rub the hens with the spiced cherry marinade; place in a single layer in a glass dish; cover with plastic wrap; marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or up to overnight. Let the hens sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before grilling.

Prepare a gas or coal grill. Place the hens over a medium flame or moderately hot coals, basting occasionally with the marinade. Turn the hens twice while cooking. Cook the hens until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the hen registers 165°F, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove the hens to a large plate and tent with foil to keep warm; let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Split the hen in half, down the middle through the breast bone; arrange the halves so they overlap in the center of the plate.

Note: To butterfly the hens, use poultry shears to remove the wing tips and cut out the backbone; with the breast-side up, press the rib cage down firmly to flatten. Turn the hen over and remove any excess fat and liver from inside cavity; rinse the bird thoroughly under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.

More Holiday Dinners With Bradley Ogden Recipes:

Corn and Sage Stuffing Recipe
Winter Vegetable Salad Recipe
Three-Layer Pumpkin Pie Recipe
Holiday Dinners: A Cooking Philosophy

Reprinted with permission from Holiday Dinners with Bradley Ogden, © 2011 by Bradley Ogden, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Book Group.