I like game hens. They are like chickens, except in diminutively exact scale. You can eat an entire game hen at one sitting and not feel like a glutton. So I eat two.
One thing that worries: are “game hens” simply baby chickens prematurely slaughtered on a factory farm? Is this a moral quandary for which I’m ill equipped to handle due to my own shortcomings? My failure to subscribe to a moral imperative derived from a careful exploration of Kantian ethics? Or are these really indeed “game” birds that have lived a fruitful life wandering the short brush of Appalachian foothills until they met their untimely fate? I’d prefer to subscribe to the fatalism of the latter, though the former is most likely closer to the inconvenient truth.
In any regards, this is some delicious poultry.
This is a simple recipe for excellent grilled game hens. Since they are small, you can grill them on an open flame without having to spatchcock the bird (though certainly if you want to butterfly it to cut down on cooking time you could).
The marinade is simply a deep rub of the Vietnamese “sate” condiment, a wonderfully reddish and fiery paste of lemongrass, fish sauce, and chilies. My recipe is cribbed straight from Andrea Nguyen, who I considered the Julia Child of Vietnamese cuisine in these here United States.
You can also buy jarred versions of sate (not to be confused with “satay”) sauce at any Asian store that specializes in the Southeast Asian ingredients, and that should work in a pinch. It should be an oily, deep hue of red, with lots of “gritty”-ness (from the aromatic alliums and lemongrass).
Sate Grilled Game Hens
- 2 Game Hens
- 6 tablespoons prepared sate condiment (see Andrea’s recipe)
- 2 stalks of lemongrass, ends and nubs removed (and set aside) and finely minced
- 4 ounces lager beer
- Dozen kaffir lime leaves
- Discarded tops and nubs of various lemongrass stalks (from those used to make the sate and from the fresh lemongrass I just told you about)
In a small bowl, combine sate, minced lemongrass, and beer. Mix into a paste. Rub all over each game hen and in the inner cavities. Stuff the inner cavity with lime leaves and lemongrass discards. Allow to marinate 4-12 hours in the fridge.
Prepare a charcoal grill, piling the coals disproportionately with one hot side and one cool(er) side. Once the coals are hot, grill over hot heat, turning often to get grill-y marks on all quadrants of the bird. Move to the cool side of the grill and cover (opening up the slot vents). Roast for 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes. Set aside and let rest.
I could eat this forever and a day with plain, steamed jasmine rice.