Instead of turkey this holiday season, why not try our recipe for Pomegranate and Citrus Smoked Cornish Hens? Cornish hens look elegant when served individually, and they are quick and easy to smoke on your TEC Grill with the Infrared Smoker/Roaster.
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WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Cornish hens are just young small chickens, typically around 5-6 weeks old. They are tender and juicy, and taste similar to full-size chickens. Given their small size, they are perfect to serve as individual servings with each person getting their own entire chicken. Serve the Cornish Hens alongside herbed cornbread dressing and bacon green beans for an elegant holiday meal.
Some folks like to brine Cornish hens before cooking them, but it can give the meat a rubbery texture. Since they only take about 45 minutes to an hour to cook, it really isn’t necessary. Also, since TEC Grills are 100% infrared heat, the hens will stay moist and juicy without brining.
But Cornish hens do benefit from marinating to give them more flavor, as the meat can be a bit bland. Smoking the hens also adds a lot of flavor, and they absorb the smokiness from the chips quite readily and easily. We used cherry wood chips for this recipe, which are delicate and slightly sweet.
MARINATE AND GLAZE THE CORNISH HENS
As mentioned, a quick marinade enhances the flavor of the Cornish hens. For this recipe, we went with a combination of pomegranate molasses, orange juice and rosemary to lend a sweet-tart taste and a holiday feel. The hens don’t need to sit in the marinade for long, only about 1-4 hours.
Pomegranate molasses is just pomegranate juice that has been reduced down, and is usually sweetened with a touch of sugar. It is very similar to balsamic glaze, if you have ever used that, and is traditionally used in Middle Eastern recipes. Look for it in the vinegar or ethnic section of your market.
Note that we use the pomegranate molasses not only for the marinade, but also to glaze the Cornish hens while they are smoking on the TEC Grill. The sugar in the pomegranate molasses, along with a little honey will help to brown and crisp the skin.
To bump up the rosemary flavor, we threw a few extra rosemary branches on the grates of the Infrared Smoker/Roaster next to the Cornish hens while they were smoking. It’s yet another way to add layers of flavor to the hens.
POMEGRANATE AND CITRUS SMOKED CORNISH HENS
1 cup pomegranate molasses
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup fresh rosemary leaves, roughly chopped
4 Cornish hens, thawed, rinsed and giblets removed
Whisk together pomegranate molasses, olive oil, orange juice and rosemary together in a baking dish big enough to hold the Cornish hens.
Place the Cornish hens in the marinade, and turn to coat. Place in refrigerator, and let marinate for at least 1 hour, and up to 4 hours.
When ready to smoke, remove the Cornish hens from the marinade, and place on a sheet pan. Season with salt and pepper all over, and stuff some of the rosemary leaves from the marinade inside the hens. Set aside while grill preheats.
Discard the rest of the marinade.
SMOKED CORNISH HENS
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon orange juice
4-5 rosemary branches
Whisk together the pomegranate molasses, honey and orange juice to use as the glaze. Set aside.
If using the G-Sport Smoker/Roaster rack, scatter about 2 cups of wood chips over the grates of the grill. Place the Infrared Smoker/Roaster rack on the grates of the grill with the radiant drip tray below the rack.
If using the Patio or Sterling Patio rack, place the Infrared Smoker/Roaster rack on the grates of the grill with the radiant drip tray below the rack. Place the Chip Corral in front of the rack, and add about 2 cups of wood chips to the corral.
Preheat your TEC Grill over medium heat with the hood closed. Or if you don’t have the Smoker/Roaster accessory, set up your grill for indirect heat.
When the grill is hot, place the Cornish hens onto the rack of the Smoker/Roaster, and scatter the rosemary branches around the hens. Close the hood, and turn the heat down to low.
Smoke/roast the Cornish hens until they reach an internal temperature of about 160 degrees (about 45 minutes to an hour).
In the last 15 minutes of cooking, glaze the hens a few times with the pomegranate molasses mixture.
Remove the hens from the grill and let rest for about 10 minutes before serving.