Cornish Game Hens with an Almond-Mace Sauce

Javintri Murghi

Preparation info

  • Serves

    4

    • Difficulty

      Medium

Appears in

660 Curries

By Raghavan Iyer

Published 2008

  • About

The assertive flavor of Cornish hens is a great match for this robustly spiced marinade. Even though there are quite a few chiles in the marinade, its pungency tends to dissipate, especially when the hens are soused with the creamy sauce. The initial burst of mint is a pleasant surprise, adding perfume to the mace-nutmeg combination.

Ingredients

For the hens and marinade

  • 2 Cornish game hens (about pounds each), skin removed, cut in half lengthwise (see Tip)
  • 8 medium-size cloves garlic, sliced in half lengthwise
  • ¾ cup plain yogurt
  • ¼ cup slivered blanched almonds
  • 2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 5 blades mace, or ½ teaspoon ground mace
  • 6 red Thai or cayenne chiles, stems removed
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
  • Vegetable cooking spray

Method

  1. Using a sharp knife, make four slits in each hen half: two into the breast meat, one in the outer thigh meat, and one in the inner thigh meat. Stuff a piece of garlic into each of the slits. Place the hens in a baking dish, meat side up.
  2. To make the marinade, combine the yogurt, almonds, salt, turmeric, nutmeg, mace, and chiles in a blender jar. Puree, scraping the inside of the jar as needed, to create a slightly gritty, colorfully tart sauce. Pour it into a small bowl and fold in the cilantro.
  3. Pour the marinade over the hens, lifting them up to make sure it coats their underside too. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 1 hour or as long as overnight, to allow the flavors to permeate the meat.
  4. Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to high, or preheat the oven to 350°F.
  5. If you are grilling, spray the grill grate with cooking spray. Place the hens, meat side down, on the grate. (There shouldn’t be very much marinade left in the dish, but if there is—which is more likely if the yogurt you used is nonfat or low-fat—reserve it for basting the hens.) Cover, and grill the hens, basting them occasionally with the remaining marinade (if any) and turning them over halfway through, until the meat in the thickest parts is no longer pink inside and the juices run clear, about 30 minutes. Transfer them to a serving platter and cover them with aluminum foil to keep them warm while you quickly make the sauce.

    If you are oven-roasting the hens, place a rack in a roasting pan and spray it with cooking spray. Place the hens, meat side down, on the rack. (There shouldn’t be very much marinade left in the dish, but if there is—which is more likely if the yogurt you used is nonfat or low-fat—reserve it for basting the hens.) Roast, basting them occasionally with the remaining marinade (if any) and turning them over halfway through, until the meat in the thickest parts is no longer pink and the juices run clear, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Transfer them to a serving platter and cover them with aluminum foil to keep them warm while you quickly make the sauce.

  6. To make the sauce, heat the ghee in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and stir-fry until it is light brown around the edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Then stir in the ground almonds and cook, stirring frequently, until they brown, about 2 minutes.
  7. Sprinkle in the mace and pour in the half-and-half. Bring to a boil and cook until the sauce thickens, 2 to 3 minutes.
  8. Stir in the rock salt, and pour the sauce over the hens. Sprinkle with the mint leaves, and serve.