Grilled Cornish Hens: An Elizabethan Cookbook

Some pigeons, Davy, a couple of short-legg’d hens…tell William cook. – Henry IV Part II

Chicken was a popular food in Shakespeare’s time, but they weren’t tripped out on growth hormones like they are today. They would have been small, so I chose Cornish hens. I love roasted Cornish hens stuffed with Rice-a-Roni. It’s a classic in my family. For this recipe, I wanted to try something different. Grilled Cornish hens! You could definitely stuff the hens if you wanted, but that will increase the cooking time.

Grilled Cornish Hens

Serves 2

2 Cornish game hens, giblets removed

¼ cup butter, softened

1/4 cup loosely packed brown sugar

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Mix together brown sugar, paprika, allspice, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes, set aside. Working from the cavity end of each hen, run your fingers between the skin and flesh of the breasts and legs to loosen the skin without tearing. Push half of the butter under the skin and massage from the outside to spread the butter evenly over the breasts and legs. Spread the remaining butter over the entire surface of the hens. Rub seasoning mixture over the skin evenly.

Grill over indirect high heat (450° to 550°F) until the juices run clear and the meat is no longer pink at the bone, 55 to 75 minutes. Remove the hens from the grill and let them rest for about 5 minutes.

Serve warm (possibly with stuffed artichokes?).

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