While a roast chicken is hard to compete with, these miniature versions are strong contenders: each person gets a full bird each, so it feels particularly fulfilling and grand. The trick to getting a lusciously golden, crispy-skinned game hen is to fry it before smothering it in sauce and roasting it. You could serve this with rice, but one of these on its own is just about enough.
2 Cornish game hens
1 finger-sized piece of fresh root ginger
Heaping ½ cup honey
3½ tablespoons light soy sauce
Coarse black pepper
To prepare the game hens, untruss them, and remove the backbones with a sharp pair of kitchen scissors or a knife. Cut to one side of the spine, from the parson’s nose up to where the head would have been, and then repeat on the other side. Discard the backbone; lay the hens, skin-side up, on a work surface, and press heavily on the breastbone to flatten out the birds. Set aside until needed.
For the sauce, peel and finely grate the ginger, then add it to a saucepan with the honey, soy sauce, zest and juice of the lime, and a pinch of pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring to mix well, then remove from the heat, and set aside until needed.
Place a large ovenproof skillet or shallow Dutch oven over high heat, and add 1 tablespoon oil. Once the oil is hot, add the game hens, skin-side down, and reduce the heat to medium. Cover with a piece of parchment paper, and weigh down with something heavy—another pan works well—to keep the birds as flat as possible. Fry for 5 minutes, then flip them over, discarding the parchment paper. Pour the sauce over the hens, and roast in the oven, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until cooked through, and the top is burnished and bubbling.
If you can’t get hold of Cornish game hens, just use 4 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs, frying those for only 3 minutes, before smothering in the sauce and roasting.