Cornish Hen Marinade

When I was a kid, my mom would have fancy parties for her and my dad’s friends. They were was always a huge deal — well, at least for my mom. The most I and my brothers and sisters could hope for was that it would be on a Saturday, which was cleaning day for us; we weren’t allowed to go out to play until the entire house was cleaned. Oh yes, there were ways to get around cleaning day, but I don’t want to corrupt younger generations with how to get out of house work, I’ll leave that part to your imagination.

By now, you have probably figured out that if the party fell on a Friday, that meant cleaning day came twice that week — and no kid should be subjected to that. The thing is, the cleaning wasn’t the part that bugged us the most.

All day, we would be cleaning every square inch of the house while our mom was in the kitchen making all kinds of appetizers and various things for the main course. There also would be some kind of fancy dessert she’d come up with. The whole house smelled so good and when we asked what this dish was or what was going with the dessert, she would go into great detail leaving our tongues hanging out in anticipation. I don’t really know why we would we ask, because we knew our fate and it didn’t include any of the delicacies being prepared. The best we could hope for would be that there would be something left over. Sad to say, but by the third grade, I knew even that would be far from reality.

As soon as the first guest turned onto our street, the nine of us kids were sent scurrying upstairs, our bellies full of — are you ready for this — Spaghetti O’s. I mean, come on, we could have at least had real spaghetti.

The one dish my mom was really famous for making was her stuffed Cornish game hens. The hens would be stuffed with a wild rice and everyone always loved them. Personally, I wouldn’t know, at least not for many more years until I was much older. I did have a stuffed Cornish game hen on the menu while I was doing private dinners. The hen is boned and stuffed with a sweet pepper and basil couscous and served with a pear brandy sauce. I have to say, it would make my mom proud had she gotten to try it.

I thought I would give you the recipe for a marinade that is great on the grill. Don’t worry, it also is great cooked in the oven, too. Since I want to grill the hen, I would bone it out. If you choose not to bone it, then cook it on indirect heat or on the grill not directly over the charcoal; use the lid. It will be a little trickier to caramelize the marinade without burning the skin.

Boned or not, give this marinade a try and get out and get some grilling in.

Cornish Hen Marinade
½ C soy sauce
1 C orange juice
1½ C white wine
4 T lemon juice
4 T brown sugar
6 T oil
1 T hot sauce, like Tabasco
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1 C fennel tops, chopped
1 T ginger, chopped
Salt & pepper to taste (soy sauce is salty, so you won’t need much salt)

Mix all ingredients and marinade the hens for three to eight hours before cooking