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Spatchcock Hens

Spatchcock is an old term that has been revived in recent years. It is a chicken that has been split down the back and flattened similar to the term butterflying, but it applies only to poultry. Tradition has it that it was a quicker way to roast a whole chicken in the event of unexpected company. In this recipe Rock Cornish hens are used. They are young birds that are a cross between a Cornish and a White Plymouth Rock chicken weighing less than 2 pounds. They were developed in 1950 to be a succulent, single-serving bird.

Cornish Hens

Olive or canola oil for brushing

Salt and black pepper to taste

Place the bird’s breast down and cut along both sides of the backbone with kitchen shears. Remove the backbone, turn the bird’s breast up. and press down firmly to flatten them.

Prepare the grill for direct cooking over a medium fire. Brush both sides of the birds with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill directly over the fire, cut side down for 5 minutes. Turn and grill breast side down for an additional 5 minutes. Continue turning every 5 minutes, lid closed, until done (30 to 45 minutes). The USDA now recommends cooking chicken to a temperature of 165°F to be safe. However, cooking whole birds is an issue, because dark meat needs to be cooked longer than white meat. The USDA’s previous recommendation was to cook white meat to 160°F and dark meat to 170°F. I recommend using an instant read thermometer and decide for yourself. The birds are safe to eat when the joints move easily, and the juice runs clear.

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