One Sunday morning I found myself standing in front of my freezer, a blank look on my face. I wanted to make chicken – after all it was Sunday. However, I was feeling particularly lazy and did not want to make our planned meal. Nothing on my menu planner is ever carved in stone. I wanted something tasty and easy. I needed something that would thaw in a few hours, cook easily and not heat up the kitchen too much. That wasn’t too much to ask, way it? There they were – that package of two game hens I had bought a while back and never gotten around to cooking. One of the things I like about game hens is that you can always do a quick partial thaw simply by submerging the birds in cold water. The water would need to be changed periodically, which was no big deal. Once the birds were nearly thawed, they could be butterflied. By butterflying the hens, they would finish thawing quickly and cook up just as fast. Broiled hens would cook in no time, and not heat up the kitchen the way a roasted chicken will. Yeah, game hens to the rescue.
Note: If you are going to serve the birds with sides such as mashed potatoes or rice pilaf or anything that takes longer than about 20 minutes from start to finish, you’ll want to get your sides started before preparing the birds. Most side dishes can be held warm without drying out. Game hens cannot.
Mesquite Broiled Game Hens
2 Game Hens
1/2 Cup Olive oil, divided
4 tablespoons Mesquite Seasoning (McCormick makes a great Mesquite Blend)
4 Tablespoons Smoked Paprika
2 Tablespoons Minced Garlic
Turn hens breast side down. With good kitchen scissors, cut along back bone on either side to remove bone completely. Discard bone.
Turn hens over, flatten to split breast bone. Press birds as flat as possible, tucking the wings under the breast and the legs turned inward.
In a small bowl, mix 1/4 cup olive oil, mesquite seasoning, smoked paprika and minced garlic. This will create a thick paste.
Gently lift skin and rub seasoned paste into the meat. Turn hens over, and brush meat with paste mixture.
Preheat broiler. Remove hens from bag and place on a broiler pan, skin side up. Mix remaining oil and seasonings. Brush skins well with mixture.
Place pan under the broiler, about 6-8 inches from heat source. Broil for about 15 minutes, checking after 10 minutes.
Remove pan from oven, flip hens over and return to broiler for 10-15 minutes longer or until meat is no longer pink.
Remove pan from oven, cover with foil to retain heat and let birds rest for about 10 minutes.
This would be a good time to finish the sides.
When ready to serve, cut leg/thigh from breast/wing portions of the birds. Split the breast meat with wings attached. Arrange on a platter, garnish with parsley or rosemary if desired and serve with your favorite sides such as garlic mashed potatoes and buttery corn.