While discussing what we’d like to grill for the recent holiday we really were thinking a nice duck but said duck could not be easily found (is it not in season, perhaps?). Instead we brainstormed a bit and, on a laugh, I suggested beer-can chicken.
As these things tend to do, the silliest of ideas take hold and suddenly don’t seem so silly.
Only I don’t particularly like canned beer (enough to buy a 6-pack for a single use) and I still didn’t want just plain chicken. So I wondered, aloud, about game hens? And then, because a standard-sized can inside a poor little game hen seemed ludicrous, the small 6-oz cans of juice on the bar seemed ideal.
Pineapple juice, in particular. Which led to somewhat tropical thoughts, line and cilantro joining the mix.
And that’s how our 4th of July grill became:
Pineapple Game Hen
1 stick (4 oz) butter, softened
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1/2 Tbsp lime zest (approx. 1 lime)
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp rubber sage
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 Cornish game hens, approx. 1 pound each
salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
2 6-oz cans pineapple juice
While the hens are defrosting, combine the butter, lime zest, cilantro, salt, sage and pepper in a small bowl, transfer to a piece of plastic wrap and roll into a cylinder. Chill until firm (about an hour or so).
Prepare your pineapple cans by removing the paper labels and scrubbing off any glue left behind. It took a combination of hot water and steel wool to get the job done, but not much time. Open each can and pour out about half, then punch 2 more holes in the top.
Rinse and pat dry the hens once they’re removed from their wrappings. Sprinkle salt, pepper and garlic powder inside and out of each bird. Slice coins of the chilled butter and slip them under the skin all around the bird–don’t forget the back, too. Tuck the wings back, drizzle the birds with olive oil before settling them over the pineapple cans.
Carefully transport each vertical bird to the grill and cook over indirect heat for 45 minutes (in my case this meant cranking up the flame on either side, leaving the middle off and setting then hens there; if you’ve got a charcoal grill, scoot the briquettes over to one side or the other).
We paired them with grilled corn and blue-cheese potato salad (the latter we picked up from Fresh Market). They look small, but half a hen is totally enough for one person with the usual sides.