About Cornish Game Hens a la Brasa

The one and honest-to-Santa only thing I miss about the suburbs is our weekly dinner at El Pollo Rico. And I know we already talked about how blah and boring chicken is, but holy shit this stuff is like crack. In slaughtered chicken form. Seriously, I know I'm the Queen of Hyperbole and all, but this shit is fucking awesome. It is so fucking awesome that last time Tony Bourdain was in town he ended up there just because every single person in the greater metro DC area was all, "GO THERE."

So he did. And he liked it.

And missing my weekly Pollo Rico dinners as I did, I decided (duh) that I would try to recreate a pollo a la brasa at home, except I don't have a giant rotisserie. And I keep using cornish game hens every time I make this. Why cornish game hens? I don't know, because they're cute. Also, how does one say cornish game hen in Spanish? Ah, córnico juego gallina. Thank you, Google Translate.

So, for the córnico juego gallina, you'll need:

2 hens, halved. (Or fine, use a whole chicken, quartered, if you want. Or a bunch of random chicken pieces. Either way you should have about 3 1/2 pounds of poultry total.)

How do you halve a cornish game hen? I'm glad you asked! Just pull out your handy dandy kitchen shears. Then use your handy dandy kitchen shears to cut out the backbone (save these for stock). Then take your chef's knife and slice the rest of your bird in half, right down the middle of its breastbone. (And feel free to trim off any excess fat or skin. You won't need them for nothin' 'cept cellulite.)

Throw these into a gallon-sized freezer bag and pour the marinade on top.

What's in the marinade? I'm glad you asked! You'll need:

1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
5 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Dump all of this into a blender and blend until smooth. It's not 100% exactly like Pollo Rico's marinade, but it is about 83.2% like Pollo Rico's marinade. And damn good in its own right.

So now that you've dumped your marinade in with your poultry pieces, seal up the bag, squeezing as much air out as possible.

Throw the bag in a bowl in case of leakage (heh) (also, ew), and throw the bowl in the fridge. Actually, no, don't throw the bowl in the fridge. More like, place the bowl in the fridge with authority! And let it sit in the fridge and think about what it's done! (Which is die so that you can eat a tasty dinner.)

You're going to want to let that marinate for AT LEAST 8 hours, but more like 24. FOR FLAVOR. And every time you go to the fridge for, I don't know, a glass of water or a piece of string cheese or whatever, give the bag a little shake to redistribute the marinate. Gotta keep your dead chicken on its toes.

When you're ready FOR FLAVOR, take that bag of poultry parts out to your blazing hot grill, throw your poultry parts onto your blazing hot grill (but not the bag, because that would be melty (in a bad way)), and char the hell out of your poultry parts until the internal temperature of your breasts (heh) reach 160 F on your handy dandy instant-read thermometer.

Pull your meat off the grill (heh) (also, ouch) and let it rest about 10 minutes before serving. And then serve!


  1. I like how literal Google's translation is.

    Also, YUM. If you and Anthony Bourdain are on board, so am I.

  2. Cornish game hens ARE cute.

  3. If you ever quit being the Lorax, you want to come be our resident chef? Please?? That looks SO good!

  4. Is that couscous?? Yeah, I want some couscous!

  5. it IS couscous! and i keep trying to get it to taste like the UC couscous on greek salad day and i can't figure it out! HELP?

  6. Where's the "About Birthday Cake and Ice Cream" post? ;) Oh wait, we're supposed to give YOU a cake, aren't we? *sigh* Wish I could bake as well as you cook, because then I would give you a cake worthy of representing my admiration for you. Hope you have a gratifying, happy day. Love you!

  7. Your blog is ever-inspiring... I made this last night and its sitting in my fridge thinking about what its done right now. Although my marinade looks way, way darker than yours for some reason...I hope it doesn't taste like soy sauce overload...Also, I just used a plain old regular ugly chicken, cuz the Safeway two minutes from my house doesn't carry cute little cornish hens (boo).

  8. oh, i make it with regular chicken all the time! and yours might be darker if you used a darker soy. i think mine might be light, but i'm not 100% on that. let me know how it turns out!

  9. I made it and ate it, it was very good. I will try it again (yeah)(for hens, boo).

  10. came upon your blog, while searching for the spanish translation for Cornish game hen, since I am living and working in El Salvador and love prepping, cooking and eating the cute but generous little suckers. You cook, and write about it, the way I do, so it was a special pleasure to find you. While I have inspired myself by recipes, I have never followed one. In fact, when a cookbook wanted several from me, they had to send to scribes to quantify my preparation....Thanks for being there, and will visit you often. Perhaps even share my El Salvador-inspired dishes(with approximate measurements)....Andre R.G.

  11. Just followed your directions....about the garlic cloves...diced, crushed, whole?

  12. Doesn't matter! The cloves get all smooshed up in the blender when you make the marinade.

  13. oops....forgot about the blender part...next time

  14. Delicious!!! Thanks for the great recipe.

  15. What a great recipe! Thank you Kat!