Cornish hens are cute, and when roasted or smoked, just right so juicy and amazing. One of the caveats here, is they can be fully cooked in approximately 1-1/2 hours. That's right boys and girls, you can rip the juveniles away from the chocolate and sugar and get some good smoked protein in them in a snap!
Here's what you need:
1 tablespoon of your favorite grilling dry rub. Mine is :
1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teasspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
4 (1 1/2 to 2 pounds) Cornish game hens, washed and dried well
2 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 cup chicken broth
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 teaspoon crush red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon (depending on your taste)
Whisk together the dry rub, salt and pepper in a small mixing bowl. Season the washed and dried game hens with the rub and arrange on a platter or sheet tray. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.
Get your smoker and coals ready. You want to keep the heat at a constant 275 degrees. Our Easter was fairly windy and I may have over compensated a bit. (NOTE: I placed my oven thermometer on the grill to get an accurate reading of the cooking temperature. It was pretty steady at 275 F, but I did manage to get it to 300 F. The brief increase in temperature didn't seem to affect the cooking time, flavor or outcome of the hens.)
Place hens on the grill and cover. If you've soaked your hickory chips in water for about an hour like I did, throw a generous handful on top of the coals. Smoke the hens for about 40 minutes.
While the hens are smoking, make the glaze. In a small saucepan over medium heat, add butter to melt, add the shallots and saute for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the chicken broth and orange juice. Bring to a simmer and let reduce down to 1/2 cup, about 10 minutes. It should coat the back of a spoon and be slightly syrupy. Once reduced, add the apple cider vinegar and hot sauce. Taste for seasoning.
Remove the cover and brush the hens with the glaze, making sure to get into all the nooks and crannies. Cover the grill and smoke for an additional 15 minutes. Remove the hens from the grill, to a serving platter and let rest, covered with foil for 15 minutes before serving.
Serve with some potato salad, Macaroni with FOUR Cheeses (later this week), baked beans, sour dough French Bread (next week) and Coconut Cream Cake (soon), no one will even remember the Easter Bunny!