Wine to me is passion. It's family and friends. It's warmth of heart and generosity of spirit.
Robert Mondavi

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thanksgiving Recipe and Wine Pairing - Jon Carnevale's Game Hen

Along with Merry Edwards, Jon Carnevale brings a lot to the table as far as offering a unique look at pairing food and wine. As the general manager at Bedford Village Inn and only certified sommelier in New Hampshire, he has the palate, training and restaurant experience to know what goes well with most flavor profiles.

The recipe he decided to share with us today was a terrific recipe for an alternative to the typical Thanksgiving turkey. This is also a practical recipe designed to impress on any occasion.

Wild Rice & Chestnut Stuffed Game Hen

(Serves 4)


1 cup wild rice, rinsed

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

2/3 cup coarsely chopped chestnuts (either fresh or from jar or can), toasted

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

2 tspn. finely chopped fresh thyme

1 tspn. finely chopped fresh sage

3 tbsp. finely chopped parsley

1 1/2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh dill

4 Cornish game hens, rinsed and patted dry

2 cups of low-sodium chicken stock

1/2 cup white wine

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Step 1
In a 2-quart saucepan, combine rice, 3 cups cold water, and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Immediately reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until all the liquid has evaporated, 45 to 55 minutes.

Step 2

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with the rack in center of the oven. Transfer rice to a large bowl, along with chestnuts, onion, thyme, sage, parsley, and dill; stir to combine. Lightly season the cavity of each game hen with salt, and loosely fill with equal amounts of stuffing, leaving a little space in each for the rice to expand during roasting. Any remaining stuffing may be baked in a covered heatproof dish; set aside.

Step 3

Using kitchen twine, truss hens by tying the legs together tightly, looping each side of the string around a wing, and bringing the string all the way around the bird tightly to hold the legs together and the wings close to the body.

Step 4

Season hens with salt and pepper, and place breast side down on a rack set in a roasting pan. When 10 minutes remain, flip the hens over and continue roasting until the hens are dark golden brown and the juices run clear when pierced at the thigh. Total cooking time for hens will be 50 to 55 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, not touching the bone, should register 175 degrees to 180 degrees.

Step 5

Remove hens and stuffing from the oven. Transfer hens to a platter. Cover with foil, and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Place roasting pan on the stove over medium-low heat. Add 1/2 cup chicken stock. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up any browned bits from the roasting pan. Add wine, if using. Sift flour into the roasting pan, and stir to combine. Slowly whisk in 1 1/2 cups stock. Cook until mixture has thickened, 5 to 6 minutes. The consistency of the gravy may be adjusted with a teaspoon or two of stock or wine. Season the gravy with salt and pepper to taste.

Step 6

Place a hen on each of 4 plates. Spoon gravy over hens.

Perfect Pairings:

Jon offers up two terrific wines to pair with the wonderful game hens. The first of which is the one he would select if this was pretty much his last meal ever. The second of which is a more practical pairing that can be found a little more regularly available.

1997 Domaine des Comtes Lafon "Clos de la Barre", Meursault, Burgundy, France

Based on tasting notes, I can see why Jon would select this wine. It is not only from a noteworthy Burgundian producer, but the palate of honey, lemon and herb would perfectly compliment the game hens.

2006 Lemelson "Thea's Selection" Pinot Noir, Willamatte Valley, Oregon - $36

This pinot has very nice acidity and pleasant notes of smoked blackberry. Since the game hen is a little gamier (pun intended) than turkey, the complex structure and smoky nature of the wine will compliment the dish well.


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