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Carrie & I were shopping the other day – grocery shopping – our favorite pastime. We were trying to decide what to have for dinners in the week ahead. Understanding that we are in the BBQ industry, we typically choose an assortment of meats that might either provide a learning experience, or perhaps fresh material to share. Cornish Game Hens came up last night, and indeed – produced something to share.
Most folks LOVE BBQ Chicken, in one or more of it’s many forms. We serve lots of BBQ Chicken to clients and make many of recommendations to customers looking for a new way to prepare it. One complaint we’ve heard often,” The chicken breasts are just too big” or “We cooked a whole chicken and now we have to store the leftovers – that never get eaten.”
Cornish Game Hens don’t have any of those problems. One hen, split in Half will comfortably feed two people with no leftovers. Even better “SpatchCock” (or a hen with the back cut out and butterflied), but straight hen halves are wonderful.
Here are the Basics of what we did:
Frozen Game Hens – cut in half just like a chicken. One half per person is the appropriate portion.
- I tossed (3) Halves in a 2 gallon Zip Lock bag & poured a “Mojo Criollo” Marinade – this is a wonderful citrus based marinade that is traditional in Cuban or Mexican cooking.
- Let the hens soak in the marinade for (4) hours – that’s all the time I had in order to get them cooked on time. Let them soak longer if you can.
- Get a BBQ or Smoker set up with some BBQ Smoke Wood and plan for “Indirect” heat; adjusting your temps to the 250 Degree range. When the temperature stabilizes, put the hens on the BBQ. I add a water pan to the grill if I am worried about moisture – this is just a metal bread pan filled 2/3 with water & set on the same side as the hens. The pan will steam and add humidity to the cooking chamber. This can be done on ANY BBQ.
- I lay the hens on the BBQ grate - setting the thickest (breast) side of the hen towards the fire – I don’t like burnt wing and leg tips.
- Let the hens cook for 20 minutes – shake on a mellow BBQ rub once the skin has started to sweat a bit. I used D-Dog’s Maple Rub – very complimentary to poultry.
- An hour later, baste on some olive or canola oil, balsamic vinegar & honey mixture that you’ve prepared in the house…this will dilute & emulsify the dry rub that was applied earlier. The color will really come out and begin to look glossy.
- Another hour into the cook, your hens should have been on the BBQ for about 2 1/2 hours now – baste with a final BBQ sauce or glaze. Mine was simple sugar, mint, sage & a touch of brown mustard – all mixed together nicely prior to painting the hens…you can use a bottled sauce at this point too…
- Things should be VERY close to done – ensure now that the BBQ doesn’t get much hotter than the 250 degrees we’ve talked about – that sugar will burn if it does.
- The hens will be done now – and can be pulled off the BBQ. I like to put mine under a foil tent on a platter or other type of “steamer” – this allows the hens to rest while other parts of the meal are finished off.
- Enjoy those nice Cornish Game Hens – they should be super juicy & tangy sweet.
We used a Traeger Pellet Grill for this recipe, you can easily replicate this on a Charcoal or Gas grill. The Traeger Pellet Grill is easy & low maintenance – we recommend them.
Thanks for checking out our BBQ blog – I try to come up with stuff that anybody can try with success – We have many of the items mentioned in our online BBQ shop at: www.greenleafbbq.com
Best of luck,
“This sumptuous feast of barbecued sirloin, salsa, Pinquito beans, toasted French bread, and green salad has been called by Sunset Magazine, the “best barbecue in the world”"
Simple aroma of the Red Oak burning in the bottom of an iron pit. The hot smokey air surrounds everything, changing everything. The deep crackle of the big oak logs, the fire is preparing to give up its gift. Men in jeans and boots, as authentic as the aroma itself prepare the 4″ thick Top sirloin “Block” steaks or tri-tips. Preparation is simple – shaking on some coarse garlic, salt & pepper. We have a few beers – waiting. We aren’t going to trim very much – the fire will need that. Families are happy, women talk. The fire wisps and cracks as we lower the iron grate on the rotating shaft. We control heat with the movement of the grate. This scene has been repeated thousands of times, more in this Central California region. We know nothing else. This is our lifestyle. Every important event. Every sad event. Grill marks, weeping, dripping fat into the fire, reddened meat, swollen. This is my BBQ. This is Santa Maria Style.
Families grill everyday in “backyard” California. Our weather is beautiful for 9 months of the year. Some slow smoke, others charcoal grill, others gas grill.
This style, like other landmark BBQ styles, is not the “only” way to BBQ, it is just the only true CALIFORNIA BBQ. It is ours. As simple as the corner of Mill and Vine streets in Santa Maria where the first Tri-Tip roast was discovered. Bob Shultz stumbled into the core of modern Santa Maria BBQ…only by accident. This discovery put Santa Maria BBQ on the map.
The fire lighting tips are simple:
Traditional Oak Pit: as pictured, load it with 5 or so logs and light it up. When those logs burn down, to coals, put one log in the back of the pit at the edge of the fire. This log will smolder and give you new coals slowly as the main fire burns down. Continue to add logs to the rdge of the fire as needed to continue making coals. Rake or drag the coals to the center as you BBQ. (If you have one of these pits, my information probably isn’t new or revolutionary. Have patience for those that are new.)
Charcoal grill or any “Stick Burner”: make a fire with BBQ oak wood chunks/small logs make a large pile, light them up, add more until you get a nice bed of coals 3″ thick. During this process, you probably won’t have seen your grill emit this much fire, so add sparingly to keep the fire manageable. A person could add charcoal to the BBQ chunks, but that isn’t what we’re talking about here. This is a process, enjoy it. Have a glass of wine, enjoy friends around that huge pile of burning oak wood.
Gas Grill: I don’t know what to tell you. Oak chips soaked in water don’t do it. Use this an excuse to buy another type of BBQ. After all, two or more isn’t bad.
Let the coal bed rest until you can keep the back of your hand over the coals for about 2 1/2 seconds. It’s gonna be hot… On the charcoal grills, move the coal bed to one side, block the fire with foil covered bricks or something firm, creating a slightly indirect heat.
In this temp range, the term “indirect” sorta goes out the window. We could be looking at 600+ over the fire, and around 450+ on the “cold side” In a charcoal grill, where you don’t have much control of the heat/grill height. Wait until the heat is within the 350-400 degree range before even thinking about putting that $30 dollar 4″ Sirloin Block or tri-tip on the grate. If you have an Oak Pit, lower the grate as the fire cools to maintain the 350 degree range. Oh yeah, you probably aren’t going to need that lid on the charcoal grill or Big Green Egg, Weber etc. Cook this on the grate, moving it around as needed to keep things in line.
Lets see, what else…yeah, your arm hairs may be singed, and you eyes may sting from that cookable clear smoke – that’s a sign that everything is normal. Just keep that meat moving a bit, don’t burn it & make sure to serve it with a great salad (and strawberries if you can get them)
This BBQ Style will take practice, and will probably cause a newbie some degree of frustration at first. Stick with it, and you will begin to unconsciously begin to “feel” your BBQ & it’s sumptuous rewards.
We’ll continue to have more on Santa Maria Style BBQ in the future…
Ok, so this is a dead simple post about a great BBQ Rub, but it can be used as a regular flavor boost for about everything imaginable. This “Original Recipe” was invented by Mike Mills, and he called it “Magic Dust”. This recipe isn’t mine, and has been relentlessly copied and modified. This is a pretty basic rendition that anyone cam make simply at home and have around.
- 1/2 cup paprika
- 1/4 cup kosher salt, finely ground
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons mustard powder
- 1/4 cup chili powder
- 1/4 cup ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup granulated garlic
- 2 tablespoons cayenne
Make it this way first, but it you prefer a bit more heat, add slight amounts of both Black Pepper and perhaps the mustard powder. Easy on the additions, as in most spices – a little either way can completely change how you mouth tastes the rub.
Here at Green Leaf BBQ, we’re always looking for someone doing something extraordinary. We’ve found that in Blue Star Seasoning as they continue to surprise with their seasoning’s unwavering versatility. Our friends Julie Bussemer and Nanette Fisher who own Blue Star, carry on the tradition that began when the recipe was created in the 1950′s. Made in Stockton California, Julie & Nanette’s operation produces high quality and fresh seasonings, that are truly “a great replacement for salt and pepper”, as Julie says. If salt and pepper aren’t the hallmarks for culinary versatility, I don’t know what are.
“Everyone claims that their seasoning is all purpose, that isn’t just a claim, they actually do it”, says Mark Brunello in Rocklin Ca. “We use it on potatoes, chicken, ribs…everything”, he says. We agree, and because of this versatility, Blue Star Seasoning is one that we continually recommend to our customers. This seasoning combines the traditional garlic, salt, pepper base with some secret ingredients. “The difference between this rub and other similar rubs, is that the Blue Star ingredients are in nice balance…not too salty.
Mark is the guy who introduced us to Blue Star several years ago. We just had to add it to the store after tasting Mark’s rib eye steak with Blue Star.
Consider Blue Star Seasonings next time you need something different. Visit our store or website for purchasing options: greenleafbbq.com
Cooking Tips: One of our favorite pairings with Blue Star is on a Tri-tip. We season liberally, and let stand (covered) in the refrigerator prior to cooking for at least 30 min. We like to smoke our Tri-Tip using a Traeger Pellet Grill w/mesquite pellets at about 25o Degrees for almost 2 hours then turn up the heat to finish. When internal temps reach 145 Degrees, pull it off the grill and rest the meat prior to slicing. We make a consious effort to slice the roast AGAINST the grain – it makes a huge difference.
Visit us: www.greenleafbbq.com