Z'houg: It boggles the taste buds that so simple a condiment can have so much flavor. Made from fresh cilantro, parsley and lots of garlic and spices, the Yemenite paste is a refreshing way to wake up a falafel sandwich, hummus, or even a simple raw tomato dip. At Levant, Scott Snyder's ode to Arab-French cooking in Portland, Oregon, the chef smothers split Cornish hens with the chile-herb sauce, marinates the birds overnight, then grills them under a brick until singed. Snyder also loves z'houg scrambled into eggs, as a sauce for pasta salad, and as a base for a feisty vinaigrette. The versatility of this sinus-clearing condiment may turn z'houg into your next refrigerator-door staple.
Grilled Cornish Hens with Z'houg
Recipe adapted from Scott Snyder, Levant, Portland, OR
Yield: 4 servings (with leftover z'houg)
Prep Time: 10 minutes (plus 8 hours marinating)
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 8 hours, 50 minutes
2 Cornish hens, halved (or 3 to 3½ pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, legs or breasts)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
½ teaspoon caraway seeds
1½ packed cups chopped cilantro
1½ packed cups chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 to 5 serrano chiles (depending on how spicy you want your z'houg), stemmed and roughly chopped
5 medium garlic cloves, roughly chopped
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1. In a large, airtight container or a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, set the Cornish hen halves (or chicken pieces).
2. To a small skillet set over medium-low heat, add the cumin, coriander and caraway seeds and toast until fragrant, shaking the pan often, about 1 minute. Transfer the spices to a medium plate, cool, then pulverize the seeds in a clean coffee or spice grinder.
3. To a food processor, add the ground spice mixture, the cilantro, parsley, serranos, garlic, black pepper and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Pulse until the mixture is coarse, about 10 one-second pulses. Slowly add the extra-virgin olive oil while pulsing the mixture until it forms a coarse paste, 15 to 20 one-second pulses. Transfer the z'houg to an airtight container.
4. Rub the hen halves with the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, then rub them all over with ¼ cup of the z'houg total--about 1 tablespoon of the z'houg per hen half (save the rest of the z'houg for serving or for another time). Cover the container and refrigerate overnight.
5. Wrap a brick or the bottom of a heavy-bottomed saucepan or skillet with aluminum foil and set aside. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat for 2 minutes, then add the hen halves to the pan, skin side down. Set the foil-wrapped brick or pot on top of the hens to weigh them down, then cook until the skin is nicely browned, about 25 minutes. Remove the weight and use a metal spatula to flip the hen halves over. Set the weight back on top of the hens and cook until the juices at the leg/thigh joint run clear, 10 to 12 minutes longer. Transfer the hens to a large platter and let them rest for 10 minutes before serving with more z'houg to taste.
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