Spatchcocked cornish hens marinaded and glazed with a spectacular, sticky, spicy Szechuan sauce, then grilled for smoky flavor. These Grilled Szechuan Cornish Hens are jam packed with flavor and easy enough for weeknight dinner, yet elegant enough for entertaining!
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There is something a lot of you, even if you do follow this blog, do not know about me. This is because what I am about to disclose is not something I talk about often… mostly because I don’t have fond memories, and I like to be an optimistic ray of sunshine type of chick versus a Debbie downer. But, I spent a few years as a line chef at a very high end Japanese steakhouse.
I lost spent countless hours of my life:
Making, and continually stirring, eel sauce
Marinating and frying Karaage
Whisking and perfecting tempura batter
Grilling filet mignon, salmon, chicken…
The list goes on, but I won’t bore you!
One thing I never made at that restaurant? One of my favorite Asian dishes – Szechuan (Sechuan) Chicken. Not shocking, I suppose, since that is not a Japanese dish. Right? Regardless, whenever I cook anything Asian, I always reminisce (read: cringe) about the days I spent slaving away in that restaurant.
Anyways, when the opportunity arose to work with Tyson® and Kikkoman®, I knew I wanted to make a Szechuan inspired dish – Spatchcock and Grilled Szechuan Cornish Hens – to be exact.
Since I already divulged my dirty little restaurant life “secret”, there is something else I want you guys to know. I will never support or promote ANY brand here on NSN that I don’t actually use in my OWN kitchen. Tyson® and Kikkoman® are products I always utilize in my kitchen for so many reasons:
All Tyson® products, and Tyson® Cornish Hens, are all natural. With no artificial ingredients, preservatives, and zero added hormones or steroids, their brand of products is ideal for Boy and I. I like to feel good about what I put into our bodies. You understand.
Since Kikkoman® Light Soy Sauce is traditionally brewed, it is my go-to for all dishes where I need a punch of umami flavor. I used it here in the marinade to create succulent and juicy hens, perfect for grilling, and in the Szechuan glaze for enhanced flavor.
Now that we have those #FunFactsOfTheDay covered, let’s discuss these delicious little birds. If you have never had Cornish hens, you are seriously missing out on some scrumptiousness in your life! A lot of people (including my husband, before I forced him to see the light), have a misconception that Cornish hens are gamy tasting. Well, first of all Cornish hens are not game birds, they are a form of a broiler chicken. And, if you cook them properly, they won’t be gamy. At all. I spatchcocked the hens, meaning I removed the back bone and flattened them out, to gain more grill-to-hen surface area. This allows for the smoky char of the grill to really flavor the bird and cook evenly.
The result? Poultry that is crispity-crunchity-skin-tastically delicious on the outside; and extremely tender-riffic and mouthwateringly moist on the inside. Honestly, these Cornish hens will taste like the best dang chicken you have ever had the pleasure of experiencing.
But, that is just the plain ‘ole spatchcock and grilled hen. I went two steps further. The Szechuan marinade and glaze make these hens spectacular and jam packed with fabulous flavor. Sticky, savory, spicy, a tad sweet, slightly sour, and totally umami. These Cornish hens are the perfect example of easy (and exotic) elegance, with a home-style serving flare.
So, get your tookis over to Walmart, pick up the necessary ingredients, rock your grill, and your world, with these Szechuan Cornish Hens! Until next time, Cheers and Happy Spatchcocking!
Photo Below: How your Tyson® Cornish Hen should look with the backbone removed
Grilled Szechuan Cornish Hens
- 2 Cornish Hens (about 1 pound each)
- 3 Cloves Garlic – smashed and peeled
- 2 Scallions - roughly chopped
- 1 TBS Ginger – grated (from a 1 ½’’ knob)
- ½ Cup Reduced Sodium Soy Sauce
- ¼ Cup Vegetable Oil
- 2 TBS Fresh Cilantro Leaves – roughly chopped
- 1 TBS Sesame Oil
- 1 ½ tsp Whole Sichuan Peppercorns – seeds removed
- 1 Clove Garlic – peeled and smashed
- 1 tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
- 1 TBS Light Brown Sugar
- 2 TBS Reduced Sodium Soy Sauce
- 1 TBS Ginger – grated (from a 1 ½’’ knob)
- ¼ tsp Kosher Salt
- 1 tsp Sesame Oil
- 1 TBS Chili Oil
- 1 TBS Rice Wine Vinegar
- Cilantro Leaves – roughly chopped
- Scallions – thinly sliced
- Toasted Sesame Seeds
- Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
- Prepare the Cornish Hens: Pat hens dry with a paper towel on a clean work surface. Place them breast side down and use sharp kitchen shears to remove the backbone by cutting along both sides of it. Discard. Turn the chicken over, laying it flat, and press down on the breasts to flatten.
- Marinate the Hens: Combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a large Ziplock bag or mixing bowl. Add the hens to the Ziplock, seal and turn to coat. Alternatively add them to a large baking dish and pour marinade over hens. Transfer to the refrigerator. Allow to marinate for 6 hours up to overnight, turning to coat a few times.
- Meanwhile, Prepare the Glaze: Place a small skillet over medium heat and add Sichuan peppercorns. Toast, shaking often, until fragrant, about 3-5 minutes. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor. Add the remaining glaze ingredients and process until well combined. Transfer and divide between two large ramekins.
- Grill the Hens*: Heat half of the burners of a gas grill to medium high heat and oil grates. Cover and allow grill to preheat for 7-10 minutes. Alternatively, place a grill pan over medium high heat or light half a chimney full of charcoal and spread out evenly over half the grates.
- Remove the hens from the marinade and discard marinade. Transfer the hens* to the HOT side of the grill, skin side up. Cover and cook until lightly marked, about 5 minutes. Flip the hens over, brush with half of the glaze (from ONE ramekin, reserving the other), cover and continue to cook until golden brown, cooked through, and an instant read thermometer inserted into the center of breasts registers 150 degrees F., about 15 minutes. If the hens start to burn before being cooked through, move them over to the cool side of the grill. Alternatively, if using a grill pan, reduce heat.
- Remove from grill, transfer to a clean work surface, skin side up, and brush with remaining glaze (in second ramekin). Allow to rest for 10 minutes before carving or serving. Enjoy!