Bricked Cornish Game Hens with Curry Sauce

Bricked Cornish Game Hens with Curry Sauce

This is it. Today. The Big One. The University of Michigan and notredame (oops–typo!) are battling it out today at 3:30. Richard doesn’t need to tell me that this will probably be the game to dictate how the season may go. But he is telling me…again…and again…and again! I understand he’s excited but the season just started. Can’t we get a breather before Goliath comes to the gate? Who schedules these games anyway? Oh well, a big game calls for a big dish.

At last Saturday’s game I was inspired by the sheer amount of brick required to renovate the Michigan Stadium; so inspired I decided to flatten and grill my game hens under bricks. Some of that football fan, pre-game testosterone must be wearing off on me; I doubled the spicy red curry paste in my sauce to amp up the heat. I have a Tyler Florence recipe for chicken wings that is so delicious, I’m inspired to use a version of it with these game hens.

There is nothing quite like the crisp, crackling, golden brown skin and moist, juicy breast and thigh meat that grilling under a hot brick offers. Though the technique has enjoyed popularity of late in American kitchens, Italian families, especially in Tuscany, have been cooking what they call pollo al mattone for centuries.

The most important technique for grilling any type of poultry under bricks is spatchcocking the bird. Spatchcocking is Irish terminology for removing the game hen’s backbone (or butterflying) so the bird will cook evenly. For additional information on this technique, click the spatchcock link for a tutorial using whole chicken; I used the same technique for the Cornish game hens. The tutorial uses kitchen shears but I found a sharp knife works just as well.

You can spatchcock the birds and make the sauce up to 24 hours in advance. My brother Allen introduced me to this incredible sauce adapted from one of his favorite, Tyler Florence recipes. I purchased my frozen Cornish game hens from Whole Foods but I’ve purchased them from the frozen food section at Hiller’s and Busch’s in the past. In my experience they cost anywhere from $4.00-$7.00 a bird.

This recipe is not as tough as it appears to be, just like our opponent in today’s game.

Good luck Michigan! Go Blue!

Recipe: Bricked Cornish Game Hens with Curry Sauce


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • Finely chopped zest and juice from 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons-2 tablespoons red curry paste, Thai or Indian*
  • 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 3 cornish game hens, about 1 1/4# each, thawed if frozen
  • 3 bricks**, wrapped in foil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro


  1. To prepare curry sauce, combine olive oil, butter, zest and lime juice, honey, 2 teaspoons red curry paste and soy sauce. Taste and add additional curry paste to taste.
  2. Place the hens on a cutting board. With a boning knife, cut along the backbone and remove. Place the hens breast-side down and using the heel of your hand, push down to break the breastbone and flatten. You can cut the chickens in half or leave them whole. Tuck the wing tips behind the joint of the wing that meets the breast.
  3. Place in a pan and divide and spoon 1/2 of curry sauce under breast skin and lightly brush over skin. Reserve remaining curry sauce for finishing the hens. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 8 hours, turning occasionally to evenly coat.
  4. Preheat the oven to 500˚ and preheat the bricks for 20 minutes or heat the bricks on the grill for 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium heat.
  6. Remove the birds from the refrigeration and season on both sides with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
  7. Oil grill grates. Place the birds, breast-side down, on the grill. Place bricks on each bird to cover completely and flatten. Grill 10 minutes or until nicely browned. Remove the bricks and, with tongs, flip the birds over and replace bricks on top of birds. Cook on the second side an additional 10 minutes or until completely cooked through. Remove from the grill and place on a cutting board.
  8. Brush birds with remaining sauce, sprinkle with cilantro and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

* Red curry sauce is available at most local and Asian groceries

** Paving stones, flat rocks or heavy skillets would work too.

Marinate Time: about 4-6 hours

Active Time: 50 minutes

Number of servings (yield): 3-6

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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