Paoletti Vineyards was probably the most interesting winery we toured on our trip to Napa in 2009. We usually don't choose Merlot, but really liked this one and brought some home. Tonight we remembered how much!
The winery is owned by Gianni Paoletti, who is also chef/owner of Ristorante Peppone in Brentwood/ Los Angeles. He was our tour guide and sommelier. A notable feature of their estate are the caves with the fine art busts of famous people and also his family members. The setting is exactly what you'd think a winery should be like, especially if you watched episodes of Falcon Crest back in the day. Wines were very good, too!
A little research indicated that roasted vegetables would pair well with the Merlot. I settled on a tried and true recipe from Cuisine At Home magazine December 2012 issue - Roasted Game Hens with herb butter sauce and roasted Winter Vegetable Trio. I added a mixed brown rice and grains pilaf to round out the menu.
The game hens and roasted vegetable recipes are really quite simple. Count on one-half of a cornish game hen per person. Sear both sides of the hen halves, then transfer to a baking sheet and bake on in a hot oven to finish. Meanwhile, roast the vegetables in the oven, tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper. Sauté garlic in the pan used for searing, then deglaze with chicken broth. Add butter and fresh herbs to finish the sauce. Toss roasted vegetables with vinegar, dijon mustard, toasted walnuts and herbs. Very nice, elegant and easy.
Roasted Game Hens with herb butter sauce
2 Cornish game hens (about 20 oz each) (they only come frozen, so be sure to allow time for thawing.)
salt and pepper
1 T olive oil
1 T minced garlic
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3 T unsalted butter, cold and sliced
1 T each of minced fresh parsley, thyme and tarragon
Preheat oven to 450 degrees, put one rack in the middle and the other in the bottom third. Put the pan your using for the chicken in the oven to preheat it.
Split hens in half, dry, then season with salt and pepper. Sear hens in a skillet, skin side down first, until golden, about 4 minutes. Turn and sear about 2 minutes more. Transfer hens to hot baking sheet and roast on middle rack for about 20 minutes, or until temp reaches 170 degrees.
For the sauce, sauté garlic in the same skillet over medium heat, about 1/2 minute. Add broth and simmer until it is reduce by half. Swirl butter into sauce one tablespoon at a time. Off heat, add herbs and correct seasonings. Serve sauce over hens.
Winter Vegetable Trio
(Yield 4 cups - made 1.5 times the recipe - we like roasted vegetables)
1 1/2 cups each chopped parsnips, chopped carrots and halved Brussels sprouts
1/3 cup sliced shallots
3 T olive oil
salt and pepper
3 T white wine vinegar
2 t Dijon mustard
3 t chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
Toss the vegetables in the oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet in a single layer and roast in the 450 degree oven until fork tender, about 20 minutes.
Whisk together the vinegar, mustard and thyme and pour over roasted vegetables. Add walnuts and serve.