Don’t let Oak chef de cuisine Joseph Jacobson fool you, he’s more than a grill master. Beyond his years working at the tony steak house—from server assistant to expediter, pantry cook to chef de cuisine—the West Ashley native counts his grandmother’s homemade gefilte fish and tales from life on his family’s 200-year-old Pamplico farm as culinary influences. And come fall, it’s not the idea of grilling prime cuts of beef that gets him excited, rather it’s the scent of game hens cooking in the backyard—proof that this grillardin has a soft spot for poultry.
“When I was growing up, my mom made Cornish game hens,” says Jacobson, who notes that this recipe is perfect for a dinner party because each person gets their own bird. To add flavor to your own feast, first prep the hen in a brining solution. “The salt opens the pores, maintains moisture, and pulls out impurities,” he explains. For an herbal aroma, Jacobson suggests filling the bird’s cavity with garlic, sage, rosemary, and thyme. Then truss the legs and wings using butcher’s twine (find photo instructions at charlestonmag.com). “This gives a nice aesthetic and allows for even cooking,” he says. Turn on the outside burners of the gas grill and for charcoal, push the coals away from the center. “Put the game hen in the middle of the grill to cook it like you would in a convection oven,” he adds. For an extra-tasty crust, baste two or three times with Jacobson’s herb butter, then serve with veggies and his balsamic gastrique. Ta da—game hen alfresco.