Jamaican Jerk Boneless Game Hens with Rice
This recipe brings the spicy heat of the Caribbean to wherever you are with this Fourmilab culinary creation: Jamaican jerk seasoned boneless Cornish game hens with jerk, lime, and coriander seasoned rice. This is a medium-hot recipe (I've had much hotter in Indian restaurants), but you can adjust the heat to your own compression ratio simply by adding more or less jerk seasoning to the rice (the seasoning of the meat doesn't make much difference in the overall heat). I make this recipe using an Actifry, but if you don't have one, I'll provide instructions for cooking in a conventional oven.
The so-called Cornish game hen (which can actually be either male or female) is a very small breed of chicken which many people find more tasty than factory-farmed, mass-produced chickens. As a fervent believer in division of labour and, as a programmer, celebrating the virtue of laziness, I make this recipe using boneless (which means, “bones removed by somebody else before I bought them”) game hens, usually sold in packages of two with total mass between 225–250 grams. (A boneless Cornish game hen is, if you open it up, essentially a tiny hamster-sized Chickenman suit.) As with most of my recipes, I give quantities scaled for one person: this makes it easy to multiply quantities for however many people you're serving. The preparation and cooking time is the same regardless of the number of portions you're preparing unless you're feeding the Red Army or my Irish ancestors.
Collect the other ingredients, with quantities given per serving.
I use “tbsp” (tablespoon) to mean 15 ml, “tsp” (teaspoon) for 5 ml, and “cup” for 250 ml. Jerk seasoning comes in two varieties: a paste for marinating and a dry rub. I find the paste works best for this recipe. Jerk seasoning is a blend of scallions (green onions), hot peppers (Scotch bonnet if you really want to be authentic), allspice, thyme, black pepper, salt, sugar, and lemon juice—here is a recipe if you're inclined to make your own.
If you can't obtain boneless Cornish game hens, you can substitute boneless chicken breasts and nobody will notice who hasn't had the real thing. The boneless game hens come with skin and are more flavourful. If your tolerance for fussiness is greater, you can use whole game hens, rubbed inside and out with the jerk seasoning, but you and your guests will have to cope with picking the meat out from all the tiny bones. This recipe also works fine, scaled up, with whole chickens or, for that matter, should the Red Army cross your frontier, turkeys.
Start by placing the boneless game hens in a zip-lock bag and adding 4 tsp of jerk seasoning. Rub the seasoning over the meat by mooshing the bag from outside. (You can rub the seasoning in directly, but if you do, you'll also “season” your hands which, even if you wash them well, may surprise you if you subsequently rub your eye or visit the lavatory. Don't Jamaica fool of yourself, mon—use rubber gloves or the plastic bag technique.) Expel as much of the air from the bag as you can and place it in the frigo to marinate for at least four hours: overnight is fine.
When you're ready to prepare the meal, start by placing the rice,
bouillon cube, 1 tsp jerk seasoning, ground coriander, and garlic purée
into a saucepan. Put the lime juice (store-bought or fresh squeezed)
into a measuring cup and add water to bring the quantity up to 2/3 cup
per portion. (If you have chicken stock from a previous cooking
project, use that instead of water and omit the bouillon cube.) Add
the liquid to the pan and turn on high heat. (In the picture at the
left, I haven't yet added the jerk seasoning or garlic. I usually only
add them after the liquid begins to boil—I have no idea why: that's
just how I've always done it.) When the liquid is boiling, stir well
and turn the heat down to simmer (the lowest level), leave the pan
covered, and start a timer set for 15 minutes. This is now your
countdown to eat time. The amount of jerk seasoning you add to the
rice largely determines how hot this dish will be: if you're cautious,
you might prefer to start with a smaller quantity the first time you
Remove the stirrer from the Actifry, add a small amount of cooking oil to the pan, and drag the game hens through it, covering both sides. Boneless game hens are prone to rapid unscheduled disassembly: if this happens, try to fold the pieces back together with a uniform thickness so they will cook more uniformly. But still, as with all FourmiFood recipes, this is very forgiving and difficult to mess up.
Set the Actifry timer for six minutes and start cooking (there is no temperature setting). When the timer beeps, turn over the game hens to the other side (putting them back together if they sprawl), and cook for another six minutes.
If you don't have an Actifry, this recipe will work perfectly well in a conventional (as opposed to a nuclear) oven set to “grill” (top heating element only) at 240° C. Turn the game hens at the six minute mark and cook for another six minutes. You can also cook on a charcoal grill, but I've never tried this, so you'll have to experiment with the time. As with all poultry, you want to cook it “well done” (75° C core temperature, no pink inside) to avoid the risk of salmonella, but with this recipe that doesn't mean dry, tasteless food.
When the game hens are cooked, the rice should be ready (it takes
around 15 minutes from the time the liquid boils until it's all
absorbed). Place the cooked rice in serving bowls (adding a pat of
butter if you're feeling particularly hedonistic), place the game hens
(two per person) on top, and drizzle the juice from the Actifry bowl on
each serving. If you have it at hand, garnishing the dish with sprigs
of fresh coriander is lovely, but if you don't nobody who hasn't read
this will notice.
There is little or no cleaning up to do. Just rinse all of the instruments of destruction and put them in the dish grinder and you're done. If you have left-overs, first of all, I must have done something wrong because this is so yummy, but in that implausible circumstance just refrigerate the remains and nuke them the next day or the day after and chow down. If any of your guests find the dish too hot, well, you could disinvite them next time or, failing that, offer them some yoghurt to stir into the rice, which will moderate the heat. Should they return, use a tad less jerk paste in seasoning the rice next time.
Here is a Caribbean sound track to accompany this meal.
(I'd like to include a clip from the wonderful movie, but they've been extirpated from BoobTube.)
This is the first western hemisphere recipe I've presented in this series. Hey, I'm proud to be an American!