We had games hens on the meal planner this week. I had planned to make Portuguese Grilled Chili Basted Game Hens, a family favorite that was long over due. Step one: buy the game hens. Check. Step two: thaw hens in the refrigerator early in the week. Check. Step three: marinate game hens 48 hours prior to grilling. Missed that step. Okay, how about 24 hours? Nope, got side tracked yet again. Eight hours? Not happening. Yet there they were – these beautiful game hens thawing in the refrigerator, just waiting to be cooked. I could hear them calling to me. Get creative. We deserve something out of the ordinary. And the hens were right, I really didn’t want to make any of my standard roasted game hen recipes no matter how delicious those recipes might be. It was far too warm a day to have the oven puffing away at 400 degrees for several hours. Nope, we were cooking outside. Sunday afternoon rolled around and it was time to punt.
These hens were packed with flavor and so moist – it was incredible. The smokey flavor of the grill, the spice of the rub, the heavy slathering of barbecue sauce – all these things came together in perfect harmony. What a great Sunday Supper whipped up on a whim.
Spice Rubbed Barbecue Game Hens
2 Game Hens
3 tablespoons Mesquite Seasoning
2 tablespoons New Mexico Chili Seasoning
2 tablespoons Barbecue Seasoning
2 Cups Barbecue Sauce
Remove backbone from game hens. Turn birds over and remove breast bone. Snip wings from breast meat. Discard wings (or freeze for chicken stock). Remove breast from leg/thigh meat. You should have four pieces of meat per hen (two breasts, two dark meat quarters). Rinse well and pat dry.
Mix seasonings in a small bowl. Rub chicken with spices, rubbing both under the skin as well as the skin. Place chicken in a baking dish and let rest on the counter while grill is prepared. (About 30 minutes should do the trick to let the flavors marry and the chicken come to room temperature for even grilling).
Build a fire with a nice pile of hot coals for both direct and indirect grilling.
Grill chicken over hot coals about five minutes per side to sear. Move to indirect heat, close lid and let chicken smoke for about twenty minutes. Turn chicken over and continue to grill about ten minutes longer. White meat will cook faster than dark meat. Check breasts after about 15 minutes and if necessary place on upper rack to prevent meat from drying out.
Pour barbecue sauce into a microwaveable glass bowl. Baste chicken generously with barbecue sauce. Let cook five more minutes, turn and mop with more sauce. Let cook for five minutes.
Remove chicken from grill. Tent chicken to keep warm. Heat any remaining barbecue sauce in the microwave for about 90 seconds. Serve warm sauce along side hens. Have plenty of napkins handy.