The salt and sugar in a brine help season meat all the way to the bone. These brined Cornish hens are so flavorful that they don’t even need a sauce.
In a pot, combine the salt, sugar, ginger, star anise, chiles, lime leaves and garlic with 5 quarts of water and bring just to a simmer. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. Remove from the heat and let the brine cool. Put the hens in a large container and pour the brine on top. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.
Light a grill and oil the grates. Drain the hens. Using poultry shears, cut the hens in half. Pat the hens dry. Brush with oil and arrange on the grill. Cover and grill over moderate heat, turning occasionally, until lightly charred in spots and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thighs registers 160°, about 35 minutes. Transfer the hens to platters and serve hot or at room temperature.
Cabbage slaw, cilantro, lime, sliced chiles, Thai sticky rice and Bibb lettuce.
Dry, fruit-forward Riesling.