Barbecued Cornish Game Hen 若鶏のバベキュー

japanese cake

This is certainly not Izakaya food but this small young chicken must be rather unique to the U.S. and I decided to post this dish. Exactly what is Cornish game hen is not really clear; whether this is a just young regular chicken or descendants of the original cross breed of Cornish game cocks and Rock hens (from which the name derived) in 1950 or similar cross breed developed later (1965) by Tyson food. But since the vast majority of “Cornish game hens” are supplied by Tyson, whatever cross breed that Tyson may have developed must be what we are eating here. Because of its small size, it is perfect to serve one whole bird per person. In the past I’ve served these birds instead of a big turkey for such occasions as Thanksgiving. For us, half of the bird is usually enough. We like this small bird since the meat is more tender and juicier than regular chicken, albeit it may not have a strong taste. I have never seen this bird in Japan but, apparently, Tyson brand can be had by mail order in Japan.

This could have been what we served if Jon had visited us along with no-crapple scrapple. The way I barbecue Cornish game hens is near identical to the recipe for regular chicken. I first squeeze the juice from two wedges of lemon inside and out the chicken and generously salt and pepper inside the cavity. I put the lemon wedges (the ones I used for the juice), coarsely chopped onion, crushed and skinned garlic cloves (as many as you like), and finely chopped fresh rosemary in the cavity. (Things have to be cut relatively small to stuff the small cavity of the bird). I truss it. I smear olive oil on the outside of the chicken and again generously coat the skin with salt and black pepper. I hot smoke/barbecue in a Weber kettle using indirect heat. This time I used hickory chips for smoking. I cook until the deepest part of the thigh registers 165-170F. I let it rest for at least 10 minutes.

My wife made mashed potatoes which were quite excellent. We used small (or baby) Yukon gold potatoes. After removing the “eyes” (leaving the skin on), she just wrapped several potatoes together in aluminum foil and put them along side the chickens in the Weber. The chicken took almost 45-50 minutes to cook and during that time, the potatoes were perfectly done. She mashed the potatoes and added salt, pepper, and very, very finely chopped red onion (this adds a nice burst of onion flavor to the bite), and creme fraiche instead of butter.
I also briefly grilled blanched and oil coated asparagus.
We think this is the best way to cook (hot smoke barbecue) and enjoy a chicken. Cornish game hens are particularly elegant (we think) when the whole bird is served per person. Although I have tried stuffing the cavity with porcini mushroom and grapes, or stuffing the space under the breast skin with herbs/goat cheese mixtures etc, we settled on the current simple method. Of course, you need to use your fingers to eat the bird, at that point, “elegance” is out-the-window.

Our neighbor’s small dog has started showing up as an impromptu dinner guest when we have barbecue. Tonight was no exception.

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