HERB, MARINATED, AND GRILLED CORNISH GAME HENS
Ingredients for 6 servings:
3 – cornish game hens
Marinade: 2 bay leaves, crushed
2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon rosemary leaves, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
Polenta: 3 cups water
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese
Butterflying: With heavy shears, cut out the backbone of the birds. Trim off the two end joints of the wings. (Reserve these pieces for Quick Broth.) Turn the hens over, skin-side up and cut through the wishbone at the neck. Cut two slits in the skin on either side of the breastbone at its base and insert the ends of the drumsticks. The game birds are now flat and compact.
Sprinkle a glass container just large enough to hold the flattened birds with half of the marinade. Lay the chicken skin-side up on this marinade. Sprinkle remaining seasonings over the skin side. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, weighted by a 5 pound pan if possible.
Grilling: Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to white hot. Place a oblong aluminum roasting pan that is slightly larger than the butterflied birds on a lower rack to one side on the grill. Fill it with 1” water. Remove the hens from the refrigerator one hour before cooking. Dry and remove marinade. Lightly coat with olive oil.
Start grilling the hens skin-side down over the water-filled pan with the grill on high. Cover and roast for 15 minutes. Turn the birds, turn the grill down to medium heat, cover, and cook another 15 minutes. If the birds are not browned with clear juices when tested , turn them over, this time removing them away from the water-filled pan, directly over the grill. Grill uncovered for 5 minutes on each side over high heat until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees and juices run clear.
Polenta: While the hens are grilling, bring the water and salt to a boil in a saucepan. Pour in the cornmeal slowly, stirring constantly to avoid lumping. Cook and continue stirring until the mixture becomes thick, about 3 minutes. Off the heat stir in the butter and cheese. Pour polenta into a 2 quart pan 11"x7" baking dish. Set polenta aside to cool and solidify.
Serving: Remove the hens to a platter to cool for 5-10 minutes. Cut the polenta into 8 squares. Lightly oil the squares and grill the pieces lightly on both sides. Se Halve the hens and serve pieces over a square of grilled polenta. Spoon pan juices over the birds.