Sunday, April 21, 2013

Cornish Game Hens with Apricot Mustard Sauce

Want to make BBQ that will make your guests happy and your neighbors envious? I am reviewing a book that might just help you out with that.

Karen Putman and Judith Fertig
Published by Robert Rose Inc.

The Authors
Karen Putman was a prize-winning chef  who won many contests on the competition BBQ circuit, including a grand championship at the American Royal.  Judith Fertig is a food/lifestyle writer and cookbook author who has written eight barbecue books, including 300 Big and Bold BBQ and Grilling Recipes.

The Book
Championship BBQ Secrets is a full size, 440 page soft cover book. The first section includes concise, often bulletized information about different smokers, techniques for smoking, and how to get into competitive BBQ. The second section is loaded with recipes.

The recipes start off with a varied and comprehensive selection of brines, marinades, rubs, mops and sauces. They include all sorts, covering regional and international flavor profiles, for building layers of flavor before, during, and after smoking. The variety of rubs/sauces/etc reminds me a bit of the classic Smoke and Spice (that is a big compliment, IMO).

Don't get confused by the “Championship BBQ” part, the book does NOT limit itself to recipes for the basic competition ribs, pork, brisket, and chicken thighs. The recipes include much more than that. For example, instead of just comp chicken thighs, the poultry section has 27 recipes including whole chicken, chicken quarters, wings, skewers, turkeys, turkey wings, and the cornish hens recipe posted here. Each section is just as diverse.

The book gives a quote that I love: Slow smoking, or creating traditional barbecue, is a technique, not a recipe. It's a technique that you gradually begin to master after lots of practice, practice, practice. The book arms you with plenty of original recipes to do just that, practice. I've done a handful of recipes from the book and look forward to trying

  • Portobello mushrooms with brandied cream
  • Scallops in sesame marinade
  • Mango and chipotle turkey breast
  • Run and cola country style ribs
  • any of the 7 brisket recipes

The Photos
The book includes 32 pages of color photographs of finished dishes, step by step techniques, and tips.

I think the people who would most benefit from this book are people who want to make championship level BBQ in their backyard. I also think anyone looking at getting started in competitive barbecue would also find it helpful as in introduction into that world.

But I don't think the established competitive cook is going to gain much from the book. For example, in the competition tips part, the book focuses on chicken halves. The standard for comp chicken these days is chicken thighs with bite through skin and that was not even mentioned.

5 stars – an absolute resource, will refer to frequently
4 stars – good cookbook with value added tips, photos, guides, and other content
3 stars – Good, average cookbook, glad to have it on my shelf
2 stars – a recipe collection for those who have not heard of the Internet
1 star – would give it away to someone else to get rid of it, but only if I didn't like them very much

Stuffed Cornish Game Hens with Apricot Mustard Sauce

reprinted from Championship BBQ Secrets For Real Smoked Food with permission from Robert Rose Inc

Ingredients (serves 4)
    You'll need
    • 4 Cornish game hens
    • maple wood chips or chunks
    For the bacon-herb butter
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 1/3 cup crumbled crispy bacon (about 5 strips)
    • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
    • 1 Tbsp minced fresh mint
    • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
    • pinch Kosher salt
    • pinch ground black pepper
    For the Apricot Mustard Sauce
    • 3 Tbsp apricot preserves
    • 1 1/4 tsp dijon mustard
    • 1 1/4 tsp mayonnaise
    • 2 tsp apricot syrup
    1. In a bowl, combine garlic, butter, bacon, rosemary, mint, thyme, salt, and pepper.
    2. Rinse hens inside and out under cold running water and pat dry. Using your fingers, smear some of the butter mixture under the breast skin of each game hen, loosening the skin from the meat. Place some of the butter mixture in the cavity of each hen. Sprinkle hens inside and out with additional salt and pepper. Set aside.
    3. Prepare the sauce; In a small bowl, combine apricot preserves, Dijon mustard, mayonnaise, and syrup. Note: I couldn't find the apricot syrup so I made and used a simple syrup by melting equal parts sugar and water together over medium heat.
    4. Prepare a fire in your smoker.
    5. Place hens, breast side up, directly on the smoker rack, add wood to the coals and close the lide. Smoke at 225 to 250f for about 3 hours or until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of a hen registers 165f.
    6. Serve hens with sauce on the side.
    Powered by Recipage
    Instead of crumbling bacon, I used a mini processor and then added the butter ingredients for a smoother compound butter.  Tip stolen from Chris Lilly.

    Tuck the wing tips behind and tie the legs for even cooking.

    Good color but I'd cook at a higher temp next time to get crispier skin.

    I made a quick portobello - asparagus stir fry while the hens rested.

    Glazed and served.
    I also tried a few other recipes from the book, including using the Aromatic Poultry Rub when I was practicing competition chicken with a cherry chipotle sauce a few weeks ago.  Definitely a good bird rub.  For bite through skin, I did the trick where you remove the skin, scrape the fat off the back of it and put it back on the thigh. 

    If you want to take your backyard bbq to the next level this Spring/Summer, consider picking up a copy of Championship BBQ Secrets.