After a Thanksgiving meal, the next day, I could not even look at the turkey. The carcass of this massive bird in the fridge was staring at us and out of guilt we had some of the remaining leftovers as scavengers for lunch. Images of cowboy movies, desert scenes roadrunners and Clint Eastwood running through my mind. But, I was craving not a pinch but a punch of spice! Which brings me to my sister and some triggered memories. These memories awakened from hibernation as I was craving spicy food and I have a teenager with a newly found freedom. I have probably mentioned that I am the oldest of six, who in their right mind would have six kids within eight years?! Back then life wasn't as calculated, it just happened! Two of my siblings were in boarding schools in Israel, ok don't have images of royal England running through your mind, they are further from the truth! My sister was at an agricultural boarding school while I was in the army, she is four years younger than I. One day I showed up visiting her, knocking on her dorm room.
I heard a rustle and a shuffle but no one came to the door. I knocked some more but to no avail no one was coming to the door. Heard some more whispers and maybe some giggles which left me completely puzzled, surprisingly not angered! After what felt like an eternity, my sister opens the door with sleepy demeanor and cob webs in her eyes as if I have awakened her right out of her siesta. She told me they were picking some olives and worked hard in the morning. Even back then that information side tracked me from the matter at hand. I was mesmerized with their silvery hues and ancient deep roots, the tortures I subjected my son to, pointing and quizzing him, as we passed every date, olive, banana tree or blossoms of an orange or almond trees throughout his life is a post for another day and time. Back to my sister with her theatrics of a sleeping beauty, as I enter the room I smell cigarettes which I promptly asked her about, to which she responded how terrible her roommates are, how much she hates and despises them, how unbearable it was to live with them and spoke of the broken homes they came from. I fell for it, only years later to discover it was all a sham, my sister was wide awake and smoking. She's got some spice! No wonder my grandfather called her tsutsundry (chuchundry) which is a mouse in Hindi or Marati, but fearful, scared, sheepish, mousy was not her character it was more cute little mouse, mischievous, going for that slice of cheese on the counter or refrigerator. A very talented girl, a great joker as you can see and imagine, could have been a stand up comedienne or a singer. Playful as her curls are, devilish little girl even at four sneaking into my grandfather's paperwork and tearing his checks up to smittens, playing a spitting game and targeting him as a bull's eye! I did have some audacity, not much mischief in my straight hair though, but not that sort of audacity of lifting bazooka from the neighborhood's little hole in the wall grocery store. She was and still is a tsutsundry alright, though only belly aches funny with no criminal mind or tendencies! A befitting nickname indeed my grandfather bestowed upon her, tsutsundry!!
On aside note, I was really wrecking my brain, I know personification is when you attribute human traits to inanimate objects or animals, but how about the reverse? What you call attributing animal traits to humans completely escapes me.
This recipe emerged as I was brain storming on twitter asking for suggestions for a spicy rub for these beautiful cornish game hens (thanks Kulsum @JourneyKitchen). I had just gotten the turkey for Thanksgiving, but went completely overboard excited and got these hens, a duckling and my old friend chuck! I also called my mom for suggestions and her recipe and relied some on my own experience and intuition. This rub can easily be served as a chutney or a dip. Or use part of if as a rub and the remainder serve as a condiment along side the meal. Make sure to portion some of it aside before you rub the hens as not to contaminate the chutney/dip/condiment. I also used the mortar and pestle to pound the dry heat spices to a pulp but you can use a spice grinder or coffee grinder, should work just fine! You will also need a food processor for the wet rub.
Indian Spice Rubbed Cornish Game Hens
4 Cornish game hens (super small)
Dry rub ingredients:
1 Star anise (snapped to pieces)
1 Cinnamon stick (snapped to pieces)
4 Whole cloves
1/2 Teaspoon whole peppercorns
6 Cardamon pods, shelled
1 Teaspoons coriander seeds
1 Teaspoon cumin seeds
2 dry red chilis
1/2 Teaspoon salt
Dry rub directions:
On a low heat preheat a skillet, add all dry ingredients and continually toss for couple of minutes until aroma is released. Be careful not to burn spices. Remove from heat, let cool slightly and grind in a spice/coffee grinder or in a mortar and a pestle.
Wet rub ingredients:
1/2 Large bunch of fresh cilantro leaves
1 Medium red onion
1 piece (2/3 index finger length) of fresh ginger (peeled and cut into 3-4 piece)
6 Garlic cloves (peeled)
2-4 Teaspoons canola oil
4 Jalapeno peppers
1/2 Teaspoons salt
Wet ingredients directions:
Process all ingredients in a food processor till you get a paste.
Add ground dry ingredient to wet ingredient paste. At this point you can save a portion of the combined paste as a chutney condiment to go with dinner. Rinse cornish game hens and pat completely dry with paper towels. Make some incisions in the flesh of the hens through the skin. Salt slightly inside cavity and out and rub wet-dry paste inside and out of the cornish game hens. Wrap each cornish game hen in saran wrap and refrigerate to marinate for a minimum of two hours. Once marinated, place in a Dutch oven or any oven safe dish with a lid and roast at 350F preheated oven for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes. You can take lid off for last 10 minutes to get some color. Be careful not to dry the cornish game hens. Coat them well to keep them moist!
I served this dish with basmati, onion, raisins and turmeric rice as well as onion, mustard, cumin, jalapeno and turmeric potatoes.