Up until now, I have only used my Baharat spice in braised chicken dishes (cooked in liquid): braised beef and braised lamb. When I created this recipe, I tried it both grilled and baked in the oven. I was most pleased with both methods of preparation actually. Very tasty both ways! In Iraq, they would likely use whole, cut-up chicken pieces as I don’t think Cornish hens are available there. I especially like to use Cornish hens for serving company, if I can get them, simply for the cute visual impact on the plate. The meat doesn’t taste one bit different than larger chicken. This recipe would be very for preparing quail, dove or other wild game fowl as well.
I allow a half a bird per person when buying your Cornish hens but make sure there is one half bird extra for a bigger eater. Most women and men will only eat ½ Cornish hen when two sides are served. I have seen a man with a hefty appetite eat a whole hen on one occasion. I have only done so once in my life, but it was a particularly small hen. If I fix 2 sides, ½ Cornish hen fills me right up. This recipe is suitable for all phases of Atkins, Keto diets, Primal and Paleo as well.
2 1-1¼ pound Cornish hens (or appropriate # pieces cut up chicken for 4 people)
4 T. unsalted butter (use less if you need to cut calories)
1 tsp. my homemade Baharat Spice Blend
½ tsp. Aleppo pepper (or dried, ground ancho chile pepper)
1/4 tsp. onion powder
Optional: 1/2 tsp. sumac (if available)
DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350º. Melt the butter in a saucer in the microwave. Stir in the spices to mix well. Split the hens in half up the back bone with a knife or kitchen shears. This technique is referred to as spatchcocking or butterflying the bird. If grilling, prepare the fire. When it is hot, place the pieces evenly (or butterflied Cornish Hens cut side down) on the grill. If baking them, place on a grate set inside a baking pan to catch juices.
Using a brush, baste the hens well with the spice-butter mixture. If baking, pop pan into 350º oven and bake for 45 minutes. If grilling, turn once midway through cooking. Cook to internal temperature of 165º in the breast. Turn up oven to 375º and continue to roast for about 15 more minutes to brown the skin. Watch them closely this last 15 minutes, as ovens can vary. When a meat thermometer poked in the center of the breast meat reads 165º they are properly cooked. Remove from oven or grill and serve half a Cornish Hen to each person at the table to start off. Only the hardiest of eaters will eat more, most likely.
Traditionally, this meat is grilled. Try it that way first as it is truly memorable grilled! But also try it just baked in your oven sometime so you can see the difference. This meat pairs nicely with any side dishes you like, but particularly nice with my Shawarma Roasted Vegetables. I also like to enjoy it with my Iranian Mint Cucumber Salad.
NUTRITIONAL INFO: Makes 4 servings (I allow ½ hen per person), each contains:
501 cals, 39.3 g fat, 0.62 g carbs, 2.50 g fiber, 2.12 g NET CARBS, 34.1 g protein, 347 mg sodium