Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Squished Game Hens

Here is my first post from Ruston, Washington!  I made this dish a few weeks ago and I had to tap into my Iron Chef skills.  I bought these little game hens to make into this delicious Korean soup.  It had been cold and rainy and soup sounded great.  Well, I took them out to thaw and the moment I decided to make them it was a beautiful day!  So much for the comforting soup on the cold and dreary day.  So, I came up with my own brick style chicken.

Squished Chicken (Game Hens really) & Garlic Butter Broccolini
Serves 2 slightly hungry persons or 1 pretty hungry person

2 Cornish Game Hens, cleaned and patted dry and butterflied (see my technique written below)
Slap Yo Mama spice (I picked this up in Houston and it's pretty spicy, or whatever you want to use)
non-stick spray
manual panini press or a couple of heavy bricks (yes bricks, new and clean) wrapped in heavy-duty foil
Bunch of Broccolini, cleaned and split into thinner strips if you like (I like)
3-4 cloves crushed garlic (the more the better I say)
Olive Oil
Butter (Come on!  Go for the reals stuff!  We don't need no steenk-ing margarine!)
squeeze of lemon juice if you so desire
Preheat your oven to about 475°F (you want it good and hot).
Take the hens and use a good hefty pair of kitchen shears to cut out the backbone.  Don't be a chicken, you have to be aggressive even in little birds like these. I save the backs in a baggie and throw them in the freezer for use at a later date.  These leftovers are great for stock.  But back to the job at hand!  Clip off the wings and throw them into your stock bag.  Wings from a game hen are pretty much tooth picks and will just burn cooking with this method.

After you've removed the backbones from both, flip them over and spread out the hens as flat as you can.  Then, using the palm of your hand press firmly down and bust their little breast bones.  So cruel I know, but relax, they won't feel a thing (they're dead!) and you want them to lay down as flat as possible for even cooking.
Make sure your hens are pretty dry and season liberally front and back with the Slap Yo Mama (or whatever you'd like to season them with).  Keep in mind that you can use Mrs. Dash or something non-sodium, but the salt helps crisp up the skin.  It's up to you but I loves me some crispy skin!  Spray them front and back with non-stick spray.  Don't worry if you blast off some of the seasoning because you can reapply.

Get a grill pan nice and hot (med-high heat, more on the higher side if you get my drift) and be sure that it's a pan you can put in the oven.  Put hens in breast side down to sear.  There will be a lot of steam but now is the time to be fearless.  Apply the panini press or bricks.  You want to weight your birds down to get as much surface to the hot pan.  Let sear for about 2-3 minutes and flip over and reapply the weights and sear for an additional 2-3 minutes.  The searing time really depends on how it looks.  If it's pale and not appetizing at all, sear some more.  If it looks like you could tear into right away because it's so mouth-watering brown, then you're about right.  Don't tear into it though!  It's still raw on the inside!
The skin should have nice grill marks and be golden, brown and delicious! With the weight still on pop the whole thing into the hot oven and continue to cook for about 8-10 minutes or until there is no blood or pink at the leg and thigh joint.  Be sure you have a good grip on this because the weights can be heavy!  You'll hear a ton of popping and sizzling but these are the sounds of goodness cooking up in the pan.  Do not flip the birds.  They can just finish as they are in the hot oven.  It's okay to throw them back in if they are still a bit underdone.

When the hens are cooked to perfection, take them out and let them rest on a board, tented with some foil.  I let them rest about 5 minutes or so.  This gives me time to de-glaze the grill pan or you can just reserve the super-condensed and nearly sticky juice to pour on top before serving.  If you do de-glaze, use a little water or maybe some white wine.  You're not making an elaborate sauce here.  You just want to get up all of those mouth watering brown bits and stuff on the pan.  Now while your hens are taking a rest, it is time to saute up your broccolini.

In a hot (medium-high heat) saute pan pour in about a tablespoon or so of olive oil and the crushed garlic.  Then throw in your broccolini.  Do this quickly to brown your garlic but not burn.  Toss the broccolini and cook until bright green and tender crisp.  This will only take a couple of minutes if even that.  Right before you shut the heat off, toss in a healthy nob of butter and melt.  It'll sizzle and help lift all of that browned garlic from the pan.  Serve on a warmed platter and squeeze lemon juice on top if you wish and a little kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

Plate your squished hens onto another warm platter and drizzle the pan juices on top.  Serve with warm bread of your choice.  I served some warmed up naan that we picked up from our Trader Joes.  How in the world did I ever do without them this long?

We dined alfresco on the porch (on a table of course) and Dale and I dug in.  The hens were so succulent and the broccolini was so fresh and crisp that it didn't take long for us to let our animal instincts kick and in reduced the hens to a pile of little bones.  What a wonderful thing to serve on a beautiful day!  Give it a try.  Remember, it's really all about timing so be sure you prep everything before you start cooking.  It's fun and simple and quite impressive to serve up!


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