Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Jerked Around

Normally, I'm not a big fan of jerks. Humans, obviously, but also chicken. I really don't enjoy the flavor of dried thyme when used in quantities larger than a pinch, and while I do like hot food, I also like to have the ability to feel my palate, lips, and tongue after eating.

In the naiveté of youth, I tended to give jerks a chance. This often resulted in disappointment - by an imbalance of seasoning or, well, just plain imbalance. Recently, however, I have found that I can have a meaningful relationship with jerks, but only those that spent the majority of their lives flapping their useless forelimbs and shitting copiously. For some, that description may well include the random ex-boyfriend, but for me, it refers to chickens that have been marinated in a mixture of herbs and spices (most notably thyme, allspice, and scotch bonnet chiles) before being grilled.

My friend Raine recently came back from a cruise to the islands and presented me with a souvenir jar of jerk spices. I gave it a taste, right out of the container, and was pleased by the balance of seasonings and heat. I had some cornish game hens in the freezer and thought I'd cheat a bit. Rather than marinating the suckers, I rubbed them with garlic butter and coated them with a goodly amount of my newly acquired seasoning. And while that particular day would have been perfect for grilling, I popped the birds into the oven, instead. The results were succulent, spicy, and just a little bit hot.

Jerky Hens

2 tablespoons butter, softened
4 cloves garlic, crushed (I used 2 cloves of regular and 2 cloves of black garlic, just because)
2 1¼ - 1½ lb cornish game hens
2 generous tablespoons jerk seasoning (if you want to make your own, here's a recipe)

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Mash the garlic and butter together until well-blended.

Using your fingers, loosen the skin on the hens' breasts to make pockets; be careful not to tear the skin. Place blobs of butter under the skin (also using your fingers) and rub the rest of the butter on the skin all over the hens. Coat each hen with about a tablespoon of jerk seasoning.

Place hens, breast side up, in a roasting pan lined with foil and roast for 25 minutes at 450°F. Turn heat down to 350°F and roast for 25-30 minutes more, until a thermometer inserted into the meatiest part of the bird registers 165°F.

Remove birds from roasting pan and allow to rest for about 5 minutes. Using a sharp chef's knife, cut the chickens in half and serve one half per person.

Serves 4

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