I’ve got a huge Man-Crush on Alton Brown.
There. I said it. And I’m not ashamed of it either.
There are some people out there that say Brown is a blow-hard, a know-it-all, a sell-out, and whatever hyphenated put-down you can think of. And he probably is, to a certain extent, some of these things. Yet in spite of this, I still get giddy whenever there is a new episode of Good Eats on the Food Network (and The Wife rolls her eyes accordingly).
Why my fascination with Brown? He makes learning about food interesting; he looks into the “how” and “why” instead of just the “what” of food. Well, and he also does some unusual (yet completely awesome and kick-ass) techniques to get some of his cookery done.
He’s smoked salmon in a cardboard box, he’s fermented yogurt with a heat pad, he’s dried beef jerky with a box fan, and he’s barbecued pork butt in a flower pot! Come on now, those are some man-crush-inducing moves don’t you think?
Now while I’ve attempted many of his more tame recipes, I’ve never actually tried any of Brown’s MacGyver-esque techniques. I guess I’ve always been too in awe of them. That is, until recently when I saw an episode of Good Eats where Brown grilled some Cornish game hens with the help of a hot brick.
A hot brick?
Yes, an extraordinarily, obscenely, Scarlett Johanssonly-hot brick.
You can find Brown’s original recipe here. Besides the use of a hot brick (more on that in a minute), I was also intrigued by the way Brown “spatchcocked” a couple of game hens. No, spatchcock is not slang for some kind of VD (although it probably should be). Spatchcock is derived from “dispatch the cock” and simply means to cut the backbone out of the poultry and flattening the poultry so it can be cooked more evenly and quickly. I’ll post a how-to-spatchcock (oh, my!) in a blog to follow.
After dispatching your cocks (I can’t help it), marinate the birds for a few hours. You can use this time to find yourself a brick. If you don’t have a loose brick lying around, get yourself to a hardware store. I bought my brick for $0.30. Yes, I am a baller.
Which brick to pick? Well, get a regular red clay brick, they should have a whole stack of them in an aisle somewhere in the hardware store. If you want to make things easy on yourself, choose the brick on top of the stack. If you want to make things difficult, choose the bottom one:
Ah, Bloodsport. It's a classic.
After you’ve picked out a brick (hopefully you haven’t given it the Death Touch, and if you have, you are awesome) get to grillin! You need to wrap your brick in foil and heat it up on your grill before you get your birds cooking. I have a gas grill and pre-heated that sucker for 20 minutes with my foil-wrapped brick sitting in the center of the grates. After your grill and brick have gotten as hot as possible (500 degrees for my gas grill) place your marinated game hens, skin-side down, in the center of the grill. Then using a heat-proof mitt, place the hot brick on top of the hens like so:
Forgive me for the blurry picture, I tend to get nervous around 500 degrees of repurposed masonry.
Not only does the hot brick help to cook the top side of the hens, it also puts weight on the hens so that good grill marks form on the other side. If you can’t get a brick, a heavy cast iron skillet would work in its place.
Anyhoo, since this is primarily a Filipino food blog, I flipped (Flipped! Get it?! Ha!) Brown’s original recipe and created a completely different marinade composed primarily of soy, cane vinegar, and lime juice. The flavors turned out pretty good if I do say so myself. As a side, I also grilled and then braised some baby bok choy. Again, the grilled and braised baby bok choy was another idea I adapted from a grilled and braised leek recipe Brown created (my man-crush knows no bounds).
Grilled and Bricked Cornish Game Hens:
2 (1 1/4 to 1 3/4 pound) Cornish Game Hens, spatchcocked (see this spatchcock post for details)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup cane vinegar
Juice of 2 limes
1 Tablespoon patis (fish sauce)
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
1 Thai bird chile, sliced
Prepare the hens by spatchcocking them and laying them flat in a shallow dish.
Combine the soy, vinegar, lime juice, patis, garlic, ginger, and chile in a small bowl and mix well. Pour the marinade over the hens and cover dish with plastic wrap. Let hens marinate for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator, turning over once halfway through marinating.
Preheat grill to 500 degrees F. Place a foil-wrapped brick at the center of the grill and close the lid.
After the grill and brick have preheated, move the brick to the side of the grill with a heat-proof mitt. Place the hens at the center of the grill, skin side down, and place the hot brick evenly over both hens. If using a gas grill, decrease heat to medium. Close the lid and grill for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, flip the hens over, replace the brick over them, and cook for another 10 minutes. The hens are done when a thermometer inserted into the thighs reaches 170 degrees F. Remove hens from grill and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Serve with steamed rice and Grilled and Braised Baby Bok Choy (recipe to follow).
Grilled and Braised Baby Bok Choy
4 baby bok choy, split in half lengthwise
2 Tablespoons bacon drippings
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
Heavy pinch of sugar
Brush the cut side of each baby bok choy half with bacon drippings. Place baby bok choy, cut side down, on a preheated grill (medium heat for gas grills) and grill for 10 minutes, or until grill marks appear. The leaves of the baby bok choy will burn and wilt, but the stalks will remain fairly firm.
While bok choy is grilling, combine soy sauce, sesame oil, and sugar in a small bowl and whisk together until sugar dissolves.
After grill marks appear on baby bok choy, remove baby bok choy to a sheet of aluminum foil and brush with the soy, sesame, sugar mixture. Reassemble the bok choy halves together, and fold the foil over the bok choy to form a tight packet.
Replace foil packet on the grill, away from direct heat, and braise for 10 minutes. Remove packet from grill and open carefully. Baby bok choy should be al dente when done. Reserve the sauce left in the foil packet and pour over rice.