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We have always been a family of chicken eaters. Growing up chicken was a staple in our home because it was affordable. I can remember eating chicken many different ways, and in many different forms, but my favorite way to eat chicken has to be straight off the grill. I love to grill, and I will grill almost anything at least once. When the weather starts to get nice, and I can finally once again step outside without freezing, I get super excited to fire up my grill and pull off some tasty, grilled creations.
One of the most prominent memories I have growing up is my Grandmother’s cooking. I spent much of my time with her when I wasn’t in school, and she would show me how to cook various things. She loved different and weird things like frog legs, and chicken gizzards. But one of the things she loved best was Cornish Hens. I remember the first time she made them for me and roasted them in the oven. They came out of the oven tiny golden brown nuggets of deliciousness. I was curious about their size, as I had never had one before, curious to see if they tasted like chicken, and overall just liked them because they were small like me. I bit into the portion she cut off for me and I was hooked! I loved them.
Recently, I have been wanting to pay homage to my Nanny, she passed away a few years ago, and I miss her so much sometimes, the reality that she is not with us hits me like a ton of bricks. So I decided to try my hand at making cornish hens from Tyson. I am a cooking show junkie, I have seen plenty of episodes about brining and what my Nanny called “soaking” her chicken in salt water overnight, was actually a method of brining to get more flavor into the chicken. I know that in a good brine you are going to have some herbs, something to infuse salt and sweet, and some heat. I decided to go with Kikkoman Soy sauce, which I think is the best brand out there, molasses, garlic, red pepper flakes, orange, and some sprigs of sage and rosemary. The soy would give the brine the saltiness that it would need, and balance out with the molasses. Squeezing a half of an orange would provide a citrus side to things while rosemary and sage are just plum good with chicken.
So what is a brine? A brine is a mixture of ingredients you heat to boiling on the stove and then cool down with ice, and you allow the meat you are brining to come reside in the mixture for a designated period of time. I do this at Thanksgiving with my turkey, and the result is a more juicy flavorful product. I just knew the result with these tiny birds would be amazing! I brined them overnight and then took them out of the brine, and dried the birds with a paper towel. I then turn the birds over with the back facing me. I took a knife or you can use kitchen shears, and cut along either side of the backbone until it was removed and the chicken was butterflied. This term is also called, Spatchcocking. I knew that doing this would allow the hens to cook on my beloved grill faster, and get those beautiful grill marks I so crave!
After butterflying the birds I heated up the grill to a medium temperature. When the grill was hot, I put the birds on breast side down first to get those wonderful char marks I like. I wanted the birds to cook quickly but not too quickly to make sure they were fully cooked all the way through. I have a gas grill and I cooked them on medium flame for 30-40 minutes or until the juices between the thigh and leg run clear. You may have to go longer if your birds are heavier than mine were, doing closer to an hour.
- ½ cup if molasses
- 1 cup of Kikkoman soy sauce
- One head of garlic
- ½ orange
- One dried ancho chili
- ¼ tsp of red pepper flakes
- Fresh Rosemary
- Fresh Sage
- 4cups of water
- Place all ingredients except ice in a large pot and bring to a boil. Add in enough ice to cool the brine all the down.
- Then add in birds and make sure the mixture covers the birds, You can add more ice or cold water if needed.
- Rest in the fridge over night or for about 8 hrs.
- Once you take the birds out of the brine, dry them off completely and preheat your grill to medium heat.
- When grill has come to temp, butterfly (spatchcocking) the hens and place them on the grill breast side down, turning once half way through cooking to the other side.
- Check hens 30-40 mins into grilling and see if juices between the thigh and leg run clear, if they do remove from heat and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes.
- If not cook for additional time.
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