Spatchcocked cornish hens marinaded and glazed with a spectacular, sticky, spicy Szechuan sauce, then grilled for smoky flavor. These hens are jam packed with flavor and easy enough for weeknight dinner, yet elegant enough for entertaining!
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!
*Optional- for added stability, insert a metal skewer horizontally through the thigh – breasts- and out through the other thigh of the hen. Tuck wing tips in behind the back of each breast.