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Chef John's Calabrian Chicken

Rated as 4.83 out of 5 Stars

"I served these spicy grilled game hens on a bed of romaine lettuce with a spoonful of the Calabrian chile paste for garnish. It's a very delicious, flavorful, moist chicken."
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5 h 10 m servings 698
Original recipe yields 2 servings (2 game hens)


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  1. Lay a game hen breast side-down on a work surface; use kitchen shears or a sharp knife to cut the backbone out of the game hen, cutting through each side of the bone from top to bottom. Remove the backbone. Use a sharp knife to slice through the cartilage of the breastbone. Flip game hen breast side-up, flatten bird lightly with your hands, and twist the wing tips underneath the wings. Repeat for remaining game hen.
  2. Place white wine vinegar, vegetable oil, rosemary, orange juice, garlic, egg, Calabrian chili sauce, orange zest, kosher salt, and anchovy fillet into a blender. Pulse several times to combine; blend until marinade is smooth and creamy.
  3. Place game hens into a resealable heavy plastic bag and pour in marinade. Squeeze out air, seal bag, and refrigerate at least 4 hours but preferably 8 hours to overnight.
  4. Preheat grill for medium heat and lightly oil the grate.
  5. Remove game hens from marinade, reserving marinade. Dry birds on paper towels. Season breast sides with salt.
  6. Place game hens with breast sides down onto the preheated grill and cook until skin shows browned grill marks, about 5 minutes; rotate hens 45 degrees and grill 5 more minutes to make crosshatch grill marks.
  7. Flip game hens onto their backs, brush with reserved marinade, and grill with the lid on for 5 minutes. Brush hens with more marinade. Repeat, cooking 5 minutes, then brushing with more marinade, until game hens are deep golden brown and an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh reads 160 degrees F, about 35 more minutes. Flip hens breast sides down, brush once more with marinade, and cook with lid closed until marinade has glazed onto chicken, about 5 more minutes.
  8. Transfer hens to a serving platter, let rest for about 5 minutes, and serve.


  • Cook's Note:
  • Calabrian pepper paste is very similar to sambal oelek. Look for it at your finer grocery stores or specialty stores.

Nutrition Facts

Per Serving: 698 calories; 45.8 13.5 56.5 397 1779 Full nutrition

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Read all reviews 11
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We loved this recipe; I had sambal chili paste on hand and used that. The chili, orange and garlic gave great flavor while the vinegar in the marinade made the chicken oh so tender. This one is...

WOW! NOT one person at my house hated this not even my picky grandson..... WOW!!!! just great!....

While I had a hard time finding Calabria Pepper Sauce, I finally found it and made this recipe to original "specs". It was excellent. I'll put this into my grilling rotation.

We loved this recipe even though I didn't have Calabrian sauce and I forgot the egg (I was distracted by a kitchen full of noisy adults). I used Texas Pete hot sauce instead of Calabrian but I ...

Very moist and flavorful. I made it with game hens Needed to substitute sambal oelek for calabrian chili sauce. Will add more next time,not spicy but the citrus shined through with a new flavor...

It was incredible! I started chicken on grill with bricks on it. After it got some char, I moved it to the kitchen. I finished them on 400* on a cookie sheet basting every 10 minutes. This was o...

we enjoyed this dish and actually used the cornish hens.. as always i deviated a little using what i had on hand.. subbed red wine vinegar for the white.. mayo for the veg oil and omitted the eg...

It was delicious! Deboned the thighs before cooking. Poured some of the gravy on some gnocchi and topped it with the chicken.

Easy to do and very tasty! I have added some ginger to the marinade and marinated for 24 hours. Grilled both sides for 15 minutes and then completed by roasting in the owen. Served with roasted ...