Cocoa-Rubbed Game Hens with Blistered Concord Grapes
2 small Cornish game hens
2 tablespoons natural cocoa powder
2 teaspoons five spice powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 shallots, peeled and quartered
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
¼–½ cup water
1 large bunch Concord grapes, about 1 pound
3–4 small sprigs of fresh rosemary
Heat oven to 375°. Rinse and pat dry the game hens.
Mix the cocoa, five spice powder, salt, and black pepper in a small bowl. Place the hens in shallow dish, and sift the rub mixture over them, rubbing mix into their skins all over.
Heat the olive oil in a wide oven-proof skillet (cast iron is good) over a medium flame. When the oil is hot, place the birds, breast side down, in the pan, setting aside the dish the birds were in and any leftover rub. Sear the breasts for 3 or 4 minutes, then carefully loosen them with a spatula so as not to tear the delicate skin, and flip.
Add the shallots to the pan, and sauté for another 4 or 5 minutes.
While birds and shallots cook, mix the balsamic vinegar, honey, and water in the shallow dish the birds were in. Scrape any leftover spice rub into the liquid. When the shallots are lightly browned and blistered, add the vinegar/honey/rub mixture into the skillet, add the grapes and rosemary sprigs, and shake the pan to loosen the birds and deglaze the pan.
Immediately put the skillet in the hot oven and roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the internal temperature of the thickest part reads 165°. Remove the skillet from the oven.
Arrange the roasted birds and the grapes on a platter. While they rest, place the skillet over a medium high flame and reduce the drippings and the shallots to a jammy glaze. This will take about 5 minutes. Pour the glaze over the birds, or serve it in a gravy dish, tableside.