Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Green Curry Game Hens

I use game hens with this Thai-influenced marinade because half a game hen makes a lovely dinner-party serving. But the marinade works equally well with whole chickens.

(serves two adults and two children)

The Marinade
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp white peppercorns
1 bunch cilantro (including the roots and stems)
2 jalapeno peppers, stemmed
2 cloves garlic, trimmed and peeled
1 large shallot, trimmed and peeled
1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed and sliced
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
large pinch of kosher salt
1 Tbs fish sauce
3 Tbs peanut oil

The Game Hens
2 game hens, butterflied (see tip below)

1. In a small skillet over medium heat, toast the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and white peppercorns until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. When the spices have cooled, grind them in a spice mill (or crush them with a mortar and pestle).

2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the ground spices with the rest of the marinade ingredients. Puree until a paste forms. Rub the paste over the hens and let them marinate, covered, in the refrigerator for at least one hour and up to a full day.

3. Prepare the grill. Arrange the hens skin-side up and cook for 10 minutes before turning and cooking until done, about another 10 minutes.

• Butterflying poultry means splitting the bird’s body into two pieces that remain attached but lie flat. If you don’t have a butcher to do this for you, don’t worry; it’s easy. Using poultry shears or a sharp knife, remove the bone that separates the two pieces of breast. Then pry the chest cavity open until you hear the spine crack. The bird should now lie flat on its exposed interior.

• If you don’t have whole spices, you can make do with ground ones. You can also substitute black peppercorns for white (which are milder), but use a little less.

• You can dramatically reduce the spiciness of this dish by discarding some or all of the jalapeno seeds.

• If you’re unfamiliar with lemongrass, don’t be intimidated. Simply remove the brittle, yellowish-greenish outer leaves to expose the dense white core. Then trim both ends so that you use only the bottom four inches or so.

• You can also make this dish in the oven. Place a roasting pan on the middle rack and preheat to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. (The roasting pan should be large enough to hold the hens in a single layer.) When the oven has reached the proper temperature, arrange the hens in the pan skin-side up and roast until done, about 25–30 minutes. For a crispy skin, finish with a few minutes under the broiler.

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