Now let’s get this started with a simple dish, Cilantro Lime Cornish Hens with Rum Lime Finishing Sauce, similar to the poultry dish I enjoyed in Thailand that started my journey of tasted exploration. In this dish, rather than use hot peppers, I use a creole seasoning mix to develop heat. While the street dish did not have a finished sauce, I add a spiced rum-based sauce to incorporate the flavors of a Bangkok street cocktail stall. I suggest using Kraken Black Spiced Rum.
The Flavor Tiers begin with the Cornish Hens. Cornish Hens are a great foundation food for a small dinner party of 4-6 people as each guest is provided their own hen; butterflied or split, the cooking time greatly decreases. Their solid, flavorful meat supports any number of herbs and spices to achieve completely different tastes.
The hens are enhanced with an herbed butter which serves as both a flavor tier and to provide a beautifully crisped skin. Use of mint and lime brighten the flavorful meat.
The Rum Lime Finishing Sauce; with just a bit of honey, soothes the heat in the seasoned butter. A secret to a successful Flavor Tier of finishing sauces is allow a small amount to cover the food with the remaining sauce served on the side. This method enables the diner to determine the intensity of the flavor.
Finish the dish with a flavorful visual Flavor Tier by sprinkling lemon and lime zest plus finely chopped pistachios on the hens after the plating. It elevates the dish past simply great to incredible!
Keeping all of the accompaniments simple allows the Cornish Hens to hold center stage but continue the lime flavor from appetizers to sides.
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
2 t minced garlic
1 t kosher salt
2 T finely chopped fresh mint
1 t grated lime zest
1 1/2 t fresh lime juice
¼ t – 1/2 t creole seasoning such as Tony Chacheire’s (provides heat, adjust to your taste)
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
6 small Cornish Game Hens, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds each
Rum Lime Finishing Sauce (recipe below)
1/2 c freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 c spiced rum such as Kraken Black Spiced Rum
2 T olive oil (Roasted Garlic Oil if you have on hand)
2 t finely grated lime zest
1 t thyme
2 T honey
½ – 1 t marjoram (has the same qualities as oregano but sweeter and bolder. Begin with lesser amount and adjust to taste)
1 t salt
½ t chili powder
Heat all ingredients in a small pan, whisking to blend well. Simmer over medium heat until reduced by half. Remove from heat and keep warm.
1 T. lime zest
1 T. lemon zest
1 T finely chopped pistachios
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Remove the giblets from the hens. (The giblets can be used to create a Poultry Broth.) With a kitchen sheers, cut along both sides of the backbone. Place hen on board skin side up and push down to flatten. Cut through the center of the breast to half the hens. Remove wing tips. (They will burn!)
In a small bowl, use a wooden or marble pedestal (back of medal spoon will work), mash the garlic and salt together until a paste has formed. Add the butter and remaining ingredients except the hens. Mix. Divide in half.
Working from the breast end of the hens, carefully run your fingers between the skin and meat to loosen. Repeat process in thigh and leg area. Use care to not tear the skin. Spread half the butter mixture under the hens’ skin. Rub on the skin side of the hen to evenly distribute the butter if needed. Melt remaining butter mix and brush skin side and cavity side of the hens.
Place hens on grill pan, skin side up and roast in oven for 15 minutes. Using tongs, turn hens cavity side taking care not to tear skin. Roast 15 minutes. Turn hens skin side up once more to crisp skin, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven. Place on warmed platter and tent with foil to keep warm.
Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the Rum Lime Finishing Sauce on each serving plate. Place one hen on each serving plate, overlapping halves. Drizzle with ½ cup Rum Lime Finishing Sauce. Provide additional Rum Lime Finishing Sauce for dipping.
Mix lime and lemon zests with pistachio nuts. Sprinkle evenly on each hen half.
Makes 4 servings