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Monday, November 22, 2010

Four Ingredient Challenge Game Hen

This is my first post for a blogging event created by some fellow bloggers which features four ingredients and the requirement that at least some part of the meal be prepared over a live fire.  We decided on four base ingredients that we each interpret in a manner that suits our cooking style and interest, then post on a given day each month.  This month, and my first challenge, has the ingerdient list of:

Mini-fowl, which I interpret as Cornish Game Hens
Green Beans
Yams, which I interpret as sweet potatoes
Cranberries, which I interpret as cranberries

I started with the grilling of the sweet potatoes as this ingredient was going to require a double cooking process. Here they are ready to go on the grill, after first being marinated in a simple olive oil and parsley marinade.  I also added some salt, to aid in moisture removal, just before putting on the kettle.
These were grilled until mostly done, probably around 85% done.  I then allowed them to cool and then fried them to crisp the outside. Due to the thickess, approximately 3/16", they were not going to turn into chips. I wanted them to have some chew for textural interest. After frying, they were hit with some kosher salt for flavor.

Next was the preparation of the three sauces I intended to use:

Sauce One was an cranberry/apple chutney that got a little over-cooked.  Still, the sweet and spicy components rant through.  You can see the aromatics and fruit (except apple for some reason) here.
 I used candied ginger, dried cranberries, apple chunks, lime zest, extra sweet onion, rice vinegar and salt to aid in drawing moisture out.  These were simmered until slightly over-done. I then added 1 tablespoon of cranberry-habanero jelly, a little fresh vinegar and some ground black pepper.

Sauce Two was a curry sauce made from a mix of lemon grass, garlic, lime zest, yellow onion and cornish game hen back and bones.  I sauteed the ingredients until the chicken bones were browned and aromatics wilted.  These were simmered for a couple of hours, strained and de-fatted.  Honestly, I do not know why I de-fatted the broth.  I added salt and pepper to correct the flavor once the simmer and straining was done.
 There were three additions of curry spice. I started with a Madras Curry powder (store bought) at the start of the saute. I added a second does of curry powder, this time a mix I made just before the simmer with the third addition occuring just as the simmer was done.  This third addition was done off of the heat and steeped into the broth.  Finally, just before serving, I reheated the broth and added in some coconut milk and some salt and pepper to adjust.

Sauce Three was an herb oil, made from olive oil, flat leaf parsley, spearmint, lemong grass, green onion and garlic.  The oil was heated and the elements of the herbs were added, heat was cut and the herbs were allowed to heat.  No sizzle, the object in to release aromatic oils and not to fry the herbs.  I then blended the oil and herbs to create a herbal oil.  One of the keys for me is to bruise the herbs with the back of the knife to break down the structure of the herbs.

Finally, I ended up marinating the chicken in a vinaigrette of olive oil, rice vinegar, spearmint, lemon grass, Bob's Top Rub rub and flat leaf parsley.  I then fired up the kettle and grilled the cornish game hens over a medium fire, hoping to get some smoke on the chicken.  I also grilled the beans, which were marinated in a similar vinaigrette after grilling.  Here are the chickens...
By the way, that is a Greenpan, which is supposed to be a ceramic non-stick pan, as you can see, unless I take a brillo pad to it, there is a problem with release.  It is now my pan to move stuff from the grill to the kitchen.  As you can see, there was an excellent color to the chicken skin, the marinade did a good job of flavoring the meat as well.  The salt in the Top Rub really helped with getting flavor into the meat.

Plating was a little fancier than normal, I had made some pie dough circles and wanted to do a Southeast Asian inspired, deconstructed pot pie plating.  The napolean of pie crust rounds, sweet potato chips, green beans and chicken was stacked up with some curry sauce introduced here and there, the plate was also covered with some curry sauce.  I decided there was a need for more veggies, so the beans were dressed with more of the herb oil and added, along with the cranberry/apple chutney.

Overall, the flavors and concept of this dish was outstanding.  I loved both the depth of the flavors and the way some flavors carried through the dish, while others contrasted perfectly with each other.  The addition of fire and smoke really contributed the additional complexity that made this dish work very well.

Larry Gaian of The BBQ Grail - Entry Here
The BBQ Grail website was created in 2007, initially to document the author’s quest to find the perfect backyard BBQ experience. Since that time The BBQ Grail has become one of the more popular BBQ blogs on the internet and is listed on as one of the top BBQ blogs.
Paul Haight of No Excuses BBQ – Entry Here
The No Excuses BBQ website was started in January of 2009 as a way to record the author’s goal of cooking outdoors at least once a week throughout the year and showing the results to the world.  Somewhere along the way things got out of control…
Rob Bergstrom of In To The Flames- Entry Here
Rob launched Into The Flames in the summer of 2010 as a way to share his passion for cooking, eating, and exploring food.Robyn Medlyn of Grillgrrrl – Entry Here
Robyn Medlin is the “grill girl” behind Her focus is on healthy, simple and creative recipes on the grill. She encourages women to learn to grill as it a great way to create healthy, flavorful dishes without all the fuss and clean up in the kitchen. This “grill girl” holds quarterly “Women’s Grilling Clinics” as a way to encourage women to not be intimated by the grill. As a McCormick’s flavor correspondent for their “This Week in Grilling Campaign”, Robyn shares fun, tropical video recipes documenting her grilling adventures from her backyard in Sunny, Hollywood, Florida. 
Marc Van Der Wouw of Grill Adventures - Entry HereGrilladventures by broadcastmarc is started on march of 2010.I started the BBQ thing when I was 30,before that we eat a lot outside.have fun,but when the kids came in our life We start serious cooking.Most of it is realy healthy I think;-)The grill has a special place in my heart,We love to do things outside..Everything I make is an adventure,and sometimes we use the books.We try to grill as much as we can year round.


  1. Very nice results, and very creative use of the ingredients. Great job for your inaugural challenge!

  2. That is a beautiful plate and I really like the layers of flavors you use in your sauces and marinades. The lemongrass mint marinade for the chicken sounds killer.

  3. Sauce number two (needs a better name!) was the highlight of this post for me. That sounds phenomenal, even just poured over some jasamine rice.