I doubt that they had been anywhere near Cornwall. Cornish Game Hens. Hmmm. Little chickens. I took four out of the freezer two days ago. This afternoon I was planning to cook them. Following directions in several cookbooks I have read (a little) I defrosted the little birds in the refrigerator.
So, I cleaned the Char-Broil Silver Smoker (including knocking off a bit of rust where the paint has burned off of the fire box) and used vegetable oil on my grates. I didn't have any newspaper to use to start my charcoal. This required thought. I did have an empty tuna can.
I put a quarter inch of rubbing alcohol in the can and lit it. Good flame. I let it burn. Good duration. It might work. Once it burned out I put another load of alcohol in the can and put it in the firebox. I racked up some charcoal in my starting chimney, fired up the alcohol and placed the chimney on top of the can.
My charcoal is still Kingsford briquettes, the ones with mesquite wood chunks in them. I only had a little of the hickory chips left, so I would be relying on the mesquite in the charcoal for a larger part of my smoke flavoring.
The alcohol starter worked just fine. Since I can get rubbing alcohol for a buck a bottle at the Dollar Tree, and I used about one ounce for the start, I think that this may be my regular starter from now on. At least until someone can show me it is a bad idea. Then maybe Everclear. More costly, but I can drink Everclear.
So, coals going, temp rising in the smoke chamber. I opened the packages on the little birds. There was still ice in there! Hot bath, pat dry. Oil. Add my rub. (Equal parts ground black pepper, cheap seasoned salt, salt, and a bit of garlic powder.) Haul the little birds down and arrange them on the cooking surface.
The coals were going good even after forty minutes. I chucked on a few more coals, and closed the vents to about a quarter top and bottom. My cooking chamber was solid, at about 250 degrees. The fresh coals provided some smoke. After another thirty minutes I checked the fire. It was steady, even and had a good color. I added all of my soaked smoke chips.
At this point I turned the birds and adjusted their locations inside the cooking chamber to even out the cooking. I have no idea if this helps, but it makes me feel like I am cooking.
I figured another hour. I spent much of my waiting time talking with my granddaughter or reading my new barbecue book. Eventually my temperature alarm indicated that we were at temperature. I had bumped the target temp to 170 degrees, to insure we were properly done. Since we still had to wait for my wife to arrive from an errand, I closed the dampers and let them continue to cook.
After another fifteen minutes my wife got home, and I prepared to remove the birds. The skins were firm but lacked the crispness that is appealing, so I moved all four birds onto the grill over the fire in the firebox to crisp them up a touch. Just a couple of minutes, including a turn for each bird. I took them out and carried them to the kitchen.
They looked good. Plump, with a reddish brown color. Juicy. Each family member got one, and they were readily devoured. I kept a bit of my rub handy, and added a pinch or two to the meat as I consumed it.
What next? Who knows? I am dangerous, now. I have a little bit of knowledge. I have a modest amount of skill. My eyes are larger than my stomach, and my stomach is HUGE!
(Note: If you wish to use your rub as a table spice, don't use the same stuff you were using when preparing your birds. Use a fresh batch to avoid any cross contamination.)