At The Cecil and Minton’s in Harlem, Joseph “JJ” Johnson cooks the foods of the African diaspora. At home, he marries those vibrant flavors with simple ideas inspired by his grandmother’s cooking.

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Joseph JJ Johnson
Credit: © John Kernick

Chef JJ Johnson roasts Cornish game hens instead of chicken. They’re juicy, flavorful and faster-cooking, and—best of all—everyone gets his or her own. Here, tips and tricking for making these savory birds at home.

1. Master the marinade.

Roast Hen with Yassa Marinade
Credit: © John Kernick

A West African-inspired yassa rub is stellar on poultry, fish and beef.

2. Go all in.

Joseph JJ Johnson
Credit: © John Kernick

Whiz herb and chile stems into the marinade for extra flavor (and no waste).

3. Who needs string?

Joseph JJ Johnson
Credit: © John Kernick

Truss by cutting slits in the skin and tucking the legs in.

4. Give it a swoosh.

Joseph JJ Johnson
Credit: © John Kernick

Soaking and swirling the rice reduces some of the starchiness.

5. Naturally nonstick.

Joseph JJ Johnson
Credit: © John Kernick

A well-seasoned cast-iron skillet is ideal for the perfect crispy rice.