I decided to do cherry glaze for three reasons. First because the flavor of cherries just seems to partner perfectly with the nutty goodness that is wild rice. The second reasons is that I've been wanting to find more recipes to use the dried sour Michigan cherries Matt's parents brought us. Finally, I think the sweetness of the cherries works well with Asian flavorings that I was planning on using.
The sauce actually started out as just Asian Cherry but as I was making it & tasting it I felt like the sweetness needed a foil. The hot Chinese mustard gave it a little bite but it needed more. I added Sriracha to give it just enough heat to warm the back of the throat & suddenly the sauce was Sweet & Spicy Cherry. The glaze ended up being such a fantastic blend of flavors that it has us licking our fingers as we tried to get to every last piece of meat.
I wanted to make sure all the flavor in these hens was not on the skin so I let them sit in a brine containing some flavors similar to the sauce for about 8 hours. It really did add a lot of flavor to the meat & kept the hens very moist when cooked. (Seriously, brine & butterfly your poultry & you'll never serve dry poultry again.)
Asian Poultry Brine
6 c cold water
2 T soy sauce
1 T sugar
1 T kosher salt
1 t ground ginger
1 t seasoned rice wine vinegar
Mix everything together in a large bowl. Add game hens, completely submerging (I put a plate on top to help hold the birds down. Let brine for 6 - 8 hours.
Sweet & Spicy Cherry Glazed Game Hens over Wild Rice
1/2 c wild rice
2 c water
1/2 t olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 t fresh ginger, grated
1/2 c cherry preserves
2 t soy sauce
1 T rice wine vinegar
1 T hot Chinese mustard
2 t lemon juice
1 t Sriracha (more or less based on your love of heat)
1 1/2 t honey
1/2 c dried sour cherries
2 Cornish Game Hens
1/2 c long grain wild rice
2 c water
Heat the grill to 350 F.
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan with a lid. Add the wild rice, cover & turn down the heat. Allow to simmer for 40 - 50 minutes until the rice is tender but still has a bite. If there is extra water left once the rice is cooked either drain it or allow it to boil out with the lid off.
While the rice is cooking, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a small saucepan. Add the garlic & ginger and cook until softened & fragrant. Turn the heat down to medium-low & add cherry preserves, soy sauce, vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, Sriracha & honey. Stir & let simmer for about 5 minutes, it will thicken slightly. Divide the sauce in half leaving one half in the saucepan.
Butterfly the Cornish Game Hens by removing the backbone. Oil the grate of the grill & place the hens over direct heat breast side up. Cook with the cover closed for ten minutes. Brush the hens with the 1/2 of the glaze not in the saucepan. Close cover & continue to cook for another 10 - 20 minutes until the hens are fully cooked. Remove from the grill & allow to rest for 5 minutes.
While the hens are resting, add the dried cherries to the remaining glaze in the saucepan. Turn the heat to medium-low & allow to simmer for about 3 minutes.
Serve the hens over the wild rice, drizzling both with the remaining glaze.
Serves 2 - 4
Some notes on this recipe:
1. I recommend using 100% wild rice not a wild rice blend, both the texture & taste are better. It can be pricey but its so worth it!
2. The glaze would also be good just on a few chicken breast or with pork.
3. We did this on the grill but it could easily be done roasted in the oven as well.
4. Sriracha is an Asian pepper & garlic hot sauce, you can substitute whatever hot sauce you like.
5. We each ate a whole hen but really we could have spilt one hen in half & had enough.