The Rules of the Game Hen

You know I hate eggs (although I have been Facing My Fear).

I’ve alluded to my fear of birds (I’ll tell you about it some day).

I have, however, been really into roasting poultry lately.  There’s something really fun about tending to a bird in the oven.  Trussing.  Basting.  Butchering.  It’s kinda primal.

To those that know me well, I’ve been looking very primal lately.  Up until this morning, I hadn’t shaved in about a month.

I’ve also been getting primal in my eating habits.  I’ve been throwing a lot of meat on the grill.  You can’t get more primal than heating flesh over an open fire, can you?

Birds!

Back to birds…

I’ve been on a huge Rock Cornish Game Hen kick in the last few months.  I’ve got my Oven Roasted Game Hen down to a science at this point.  I love the richness of the bird.  I love the gamey (obviously) flavor of it.  It takes me back to those primal roots.  You remember how our Neanderthal ancestors used to crossbred chickens to produce smaller birds with bigger breasts and a tastier flavor, don’t you?

On Monday, I decided to mesh all of my primal inclinations, and roast a Game Hen on the grill… with the help of Weber’s Big Book of Grilling.

Here’s how to make it…

Almost always, game hens come frozen… So the day before, I like to thaw out the hen under some cold water in the sink (if you don’t want to quick-thaw it, put it in the fridge two days before you plan on cooking the bird).  After the thawing, I will brine the hen in a stock pot over-night.  The brine is made using a pot of water, half a cup of brown sugar, half a cup of salt, one bay leaf, a bunch of fresh rosemary and thyme from the garden, and one orange and one lemon thickly sliced.  This brine should ensure that the bird is juicy and flavorful when all is said and done.

The next day is when the magic happens…

Finely dice up some green apple, carrot, yellow onion, and celery.  Mix it up in a bowl with some room temperature butter, salt n’ peppa, and a little fresh rosemary and thyme from the garden.

Remove the hen from the brine, and try to stuff as much of the veggie butter mix in the body cavity as you can.  Using cotton butcher string, truss the bird up nice and tight so the legs and wings are snug against its body and the cavity is closed up.  Rub the body of the bird with more of the veggie butter mix.  Set any extra mix aside (we’ll find a use for it later).

Now it’s time to prep the grill…

Put a drip pan with thickly chopped pieces of apple, celery, carrot, and onion along with some salt n' peppa, fresh rosemary and thyme, and butter under the grates of the grill where you will be placing the bird.

Replace the grates on the grill.  It’s time to pre-heat.

The bird will be roasted using indirect heat on the grill, so turn on the three exposed burners to high and close the lid for about ten minutes (until the grill gets between 400 and 500 degrees fahrenheit).

While the grill is heating up, melt some butter in a saucepan with salt n’ peppa, rosemary, and thyme.  You will use this to baste your bird.

Now, let’s roast this sucker!

Turn the exposed burners down to medium high. Place the bird breast side down on the grates over the drip pan (not on the flame). I like to make sure that the cavity and legs are facing out to make it easier to check the temperature of the bird. Using a baster, coat the bird with some of that melted butter. Shut the lid.

Even though we are keeping the lid shut, you do need to pay attention to your grill.  You want to make sure that the temperature of the grill stays between 425 and 475 degrees fahrenheit.  Adjust the burners accordingly.  Every 15 minutes or so, go back to the bird to baste it with more of that melted butter.

The bird is done when the thickest part of the thigh is 180 degrees fahrenheit (45 – 80 minutes depending on your grill).

It should look like this…

Booyah!

I like to serve game hen with cornbread stuffing.  Remember the diced veggies and butter left over from stuffing the bird?  Mix those veggies in with your favorite instant stuffing.  It’ll be dope.

When the bird is done, remove the back and cut the hen in half.  Serve it on a plate with some stuffing.

Yum!

Yum!

“Hey Jeff,” you may be asking, “What wine should be used to pair with this bad ass game hen?”

Well…

Here’s what I had…

Joseph Drouhin 2007 Bourgogne Pinot Noir and a cook book.

I’ve had this  Joseph Drouhin 2007 Bourgogne Pinot Noir in the wine fridge for about a year now.  The current vintage is on sale at BevMo for $13.39, so I’m guessing it cost me that much.  Joseph Drouhin is one of the great shippers of wine from Burgundy.  This is his entry-level Pinot Noir.

Color: Of course this wine is light burgundy in color.  Like any wine made from 100% Pinot Noir, I was able to see my fingers through the wine.

Nice!

Nose: Red grape skins.  Minerals.  A hint of bacon fat.  Strawberry.  Red bell pepper.  This wine smelled delicious.

Taste: The fruit is a little bit tart up front.  Think of cherries, cranberries, and under-ripe strawberries blended together.  The mid-palate transitions to tomato seeds and vines.  It has a nice finish of green bell peppers.

Score: I liked this wine a lot.  It was really fun to drink.  It’s the kind of wine that makes you think.  This was a solid 89+.  Pick it up!

The Drouhin went really well with the bird.  The fat and gamey taste of the hen elevated the normally light styled Pinot Noir to having the full-bodied apeal of a Cabernet Sauvignon.  It also highlighted some raspberry flavors that had been hidden in my initial tasting.   Very nice!

One could say the pairing of the Burgundy with the game hen RULES… At least… I did.

Stay Rad,

Jeff

PS – When it’s time to clean up, don’t throw away the hen carcass or the veggies from the drip pan.

Use it to make a bad ass stock!

Throw all of those leftovers into a stock pot. Fill it up with water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and leave it uncovered for 3 hours.

When all is said and done, you're gonna have this awesome game hen stock. I used mine to make risotto.

Lates!

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