Smoked Game Hen with Roasted Potatoes and Garlic Green Beans
Contrary to popular belief, a cornish game hen is not a baby chicken, rather it is a variety of boiler chicken that is processed at a young age, typically between 4 and 6 weeks old and traditionally at a weight under 2 pounds.
The flavor of game hen is similar to chicken but it’s more succulent and usually one entire bird would be considered a serving size when prepared.
Most grocery stores carry frozen game hen which are packaged in full plastic, often is packages of 2 birds which is intended to be two servings.
The technique for this recipe will work great both for game hen and chicken so if you prefer using chicken, that’s totally up to you. Also, if you don’t have a smoker, you can roast the birds for similar results. I will discuss both cooking methods.
Since game hen are processed at a younger age than chickens, they contain less fat and are generally comprised mostly of white breast meat. Generally as chickens age, they are become more tough and less tender, lending more appropriate cooking methods to stewing or to be used in soup.
Game hen are also high in niacin which is important for the body to help lower cholesterol,
Using a brine for the bird with this technique, you will help keep your game hen or chicken from drying out during cooking and also will help season the poultry to your liking.
I like to brine the game hen overnight for the best results.
You can pair your poultry with whatever vegetables you prefer. I think roasted potatoes and garlicky green beans are a perfect compliment and are also simple to prepare while your birds are smoking or roasting.
- 2 cornish game hen (or one chicken)
- 2 quarts water
- 2 quarts apple cider or apple juice
- 1/2 cup salt
- 20 whole peppercorns
- 5 sage leaves
- 4 cloves smashed garlic
- 1 sprig of fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dry)
- 1 sprig of fresh rosemary (or 1 tsp dry)
Pour the water and apple cider in a stock pot and bring to a boil. Add the salt and dissolve. Add the remaining ingredients, cover and turn the heat off. Let the mixture steep for 20 minutes then remove the lid and add a few cups of ice to help cool the brining solution more quickly.
Once the mixture has cooled, place the game hen in a container large enough to hold them plus the brine. You can use a large pitcher or food grade bucket.
You really just want to be able to fully submerge the game hen in the brine.
Cover and place the game hen in the brine in the fridge to brine overnight.
The next day, remove your game hens from the fridge and rinse with cold water. The herbs and salt in the brine will have penetrated the meat overnight so the rinse is really just intended to remove excess from the exterior. Pat the game hen dry with a kitchen or paper towel.
Prepare your smoker at 250 degrees. I would suggest using pecan pellets or wood chips for chicken and game hen. If you’re going to roast the birds, set your oven to 375 degrees.
The cooking time will vary depending on the technique used but the goal for each method is to get the internal temperature of the poultry to 165 degrees.
Roasting these in the oven should take about 45-55 minutes. Smoking them will take about an hour and a half to two hours. The best way to check the doneness is with a meat thermometer.
While the birds are cooking, you can work on your sides.
- 1 pound baby yukon gold potatoes (halved or quartered)
- 1 pound green beans (trimmed)
- 10 cloves garlic (chopped, divided)
- 1 sprig chopped fresh rosemary (or 1 tsp dry)
- 1 Tbsp salt (divided)
- 1 tsp pepper
- 3-4 Tbsp olive oil
Set your oven to 375. If you’re roasting the game hen, you can just use a different rack for your potatoes.
In a large bowl, add the potatoes, half the garlic, rosemary and half the salt. Add enough olive oil to coat the potatoes and toss it all together.
Place in the oven and roast until the potatoes are tender and start to show some color. This should take about 20 minutes.
For the green beans, you can use either a large saute pan or a wok. Get your pan hot. Add 1-2 Tbsp oil and then the garlic. Stir quickly to be sure the garlic doesn’t burn. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add your green beans and cook very briefly, just until they start to become bright green (1-2 minutes). Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.
Once your chickens have hit 165 degrees, remove from smoker or oven let rest for 5-10 minutes. This will help the juices redistribute instead of running out of the birds when sliced.
To serve, cut the game hens in half and place on a platter along with half of the potatoes and green beans. Garnish with fresh herbs if you have some on hand. You can also serve this family style if you prefer!