Herb-encrusted and Smoked Cornish Hens with Southern Cornbread Stuffing
Prep Time 9hours30minutes
Cook Time 3hours
Total Time 12hours30minutes
Author A Bachelor & His Grill
2 12ozcans of beeror non-alcoholic beer
1 1/2cupsbrown sugar
Fresh sprigs of rosemarysage and thyme, plus additional for stuffing and garnish
6 1-2poundwhole Cornish hensthawed, trimmed and giblets removed
1stick of cold buttersliced into 12 equal parts
Olive oilplus additional for basting
Kosher salt and fresh ground black peppercornto taste
Zest of 3 small lemonslemons then quartered
Cornbread stuffingfully prepared
4cupsapple woodor your favorite alternate hardwood
In a large pot bring water, salt and sugar to a boil. Once rolling boil achieved, remove from burner, toss in a few handfuls of herbs, and allow the water to cool entirely (to room temperature). Pour in 2 cans of beer, immerse hens, cover and refrigerate for 8-24 hours.
Remove hens from brine, rinse under cold water and pat dry with paper towel. Discard brine. Place hens back in the refrigerator for 1 hour, uncovered, to further dry and tighten the skin. 45 minutes prior to smoking, remove birds from refrigerator to begin returning to room temperature. Gently slide a finger between the breast meat and adjoining skin, then slide a slab of cold butter under the loosened skin – 2 slabs of butter per hen, 1 over each breast. Drizzle the hens with olive oil inside and out, then massage a liberal degree of Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt, peppercorn, and 1/6 of the lemon zest into all portions of each bird. Stuff posterior of the bird with prepared cornbread stuffing. Insert a quartered lemon and small handful of fresh herb sprigs into the upper end of the hen’s cavity.
Preheat the smoker 20-30 minutes before your cook by loading smoker with wood chips, filling the water pan and dialing the temperature to 275F.
Place the hens evenly across the smoker racks – balancing the bird upon it’s backbone. Slowly roast for 2 hours, lightly basting every 30 minutes with olive oil, or until the internal temperature of the dark thigh meat reaches 162F and juices run clear.
Carefully remove hens from the smoker and transfer to a cutting board. Tent with tin foil and rest for 10 minutes before discarding the lemon and herbs. Carve, season additionally to taste, and serve.