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Jerk Cornish Game Hens
© John Kernick

Jerk Cornish Game Hens

  • ACTIVE: 1 HR
  • TOTAL TIME: 2 HRS plus overnight marinating
  • SERVINGS: 4

Bradford Thompson's jerk sauce is loosely based on his wife Kerry-Ann's excellent family recipe; the couple is hoping to bottle it and sell it in stores. The mix of fiery Scotch bonnet chiles, scallions and spices creates a complex, deep-flavored paste that's amazing on grilled chicken or game hens.

  1. 4 Scotch bonnet or habanero chiles, stemmed and halved
  2. 5 small scallions, cut into 2-inch lengths
  3. 2 teaspoons chopped thyme
  4. 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  5. 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  6. 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  7. 1 tablespoon dark rum
  8. 2 tablespoons water
  9. Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  10. 4 Cornish game hens (about 2 pounds each)
  1. In a blender, puree the Scotch bonnets with the scallions, thyme, garlic powder, brown sugar, soy sauce, dark rum and water. Season with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.
  2. Using kitchen scissors, cut out the backbone of each hen. Press down on the breasts to flatten the hens. Set them in a baking dish and coat them all over with the jerk paste. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Preheat the oven to 300°. Set the hens on 2 large rimmed baking sheets and bake for 45 minutes, until firm but not browned or cooked through.
  4. Meanwhile, light a grill. Grill the hens over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until cooked through and lightly charred in spots, about 20 minutes. Transfer the hens to a platter and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Make Ahead The jerk paste can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.

Suggested Pairing

Fiery jerk sauce obliterates the flavor of almost any wine. Instead, serve these hens with beer. Jamaicans would drink the local Red Stripe, a mild lager-style beer; for an American equivalent, look for the lightly malty Samuel Adams Boston Lager.