I used to consider myself an “ABC” girl – Anything But Chardonnay, but then I tasted our Saltwater Farm Vineyard ‘Gold Arc’ Estate Chardonnay which debuted last Spring. It was as if my taste buds had an epiphany and, just like that, I was a convert!

The new “barely buttery” approach (that being our first use of oak for any white varietal) had me intrigued, along with many of our Connecticut Wine Trail friends. Its popularity continued to grow and our delicately oaked 2010 ‘Gold Arc’ Estate Chardonnay earned first place in Connecticut Magazine’s 2012 blind taste test for the dry white category. Hats off to our winemaker, Gilles Martin. You have made us incredibly proud!

Staff and locals alike have been eager to pop open a bottle of the next vintage since, much to our chagrin, the first sold out early-on in our 2013 season. Expecting to pour our second vintage in early Spring 2014, we were pleasantly surprised to feature it on our tasting note this Fall… the timing could not be more perfect!

Ready or not, the holidays are swiftly approaching, which means gatherings centered around food, wine, and those we love (or sometimes, endure). Allow me to get your wheels turning on how you can put a beautifully paired meal on the table; one that will comfort and impress anyone who is lucky enough to pull up a seat. Yes, even your “Martha Stewart” Aunt.

During the colder months, one of my favorite things to cook for either a special evening at home with my husband or for dinner guests, is the Cornish hen. Last year, I prepared this intimate Thanksgiving feast for a party of three in lieu of a fussy turkey. While turkey is fantastic, it can quickly become a complex project spending hours in, and out of, the oven. The single-serving hen can be a pleasant (and easy) surprise in comparison. No messy carving required, and there will be no fighting over who gets the drumsticks. The only debate might be whether to eat civilized or caveman style.

Cornish Game Hens with an Apple and Pancetta Cornbread Stuffing, Accompanied by a Creamy Parmesan Risotto
Pair with our 2012 ‘Gold Arc’ Estate Chardonnay


-1Make the cornbread ahead: I like to use a traditional corn bread mix from Kenyon Grist Mill, a local mill just over the Rhode Island border. I simply fold in the following before baking as directed on the back of the package:

1.5 crisp apples, peeled and finely chopped
1/3 lb of pancetta, cubed

In a medium skillet over medium high heat, fry the pancetta until it is crisp and golden. Using a slotted spoon, scoop them onto a paper towel lined plate. Drain all but 1 tbsp of the pancetta renderings off and sauté the apples until they start to soften.


Suggestion: Save the leftover pancetta renderings and use a dab to fry yourself an over-the-top egg sandwich or to sauté your favorite vegetables.

Make the Stuffing ahead:

5 cups of crumbled cornbread
3 stalks of celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 stick of butter
3 tbsp of chopped flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup chicken stock (if needed)

In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter. When the foaming has subsided, sauté the onions until they are soft and translucent. Next, add the celery, parsley, and cornbread off the heat. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate if not using immediately.

Prep your Hens:

Purchase one Cornish game hen per person.
Rinse under cool water and pat dry – season liberally inside and out with sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper.


For the Hens:

2 small yellow onions, sliced
2 tbsp melted butter
Kitchen twine

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Toss the sliced onions into a roasting pan, they will act as a flavorful nest. You want your roasting pan to be just large enough to fit the number of birds you are cooking. Being careful not to overpack the hens, use a spoon to loosely fill them with stuffing. Tie the legs using kitchen twine and place breast side up in your prepared pan. Tuck the wings under the body, brush with melted butter and roast for up to an hour. Check the temperature at 50 minutes, you want to remove them when they reach 160 degrees as the temperature will continue to rise as they rest.

Suggestion: Bake any remaining stuffing in a casserole dish alongside the poultry for approximately 30 – 40 minutes.


Meanwhile, make the Risotto:

I found it took great willpower to donate even a splash of ‘Gold Arc’ Estate Chardonnay from the bottle to stir into the creamy risotto. As a reward, I poured myself a glass of wine. Both ended up being very good choices…

4 cups of low sodium chicken broth
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 cup freshly grated good parmesan cheese
1/2 cup dry white wine (‘Gold Arc’ Estate Chardonnay)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring the broth to a simmer in a medium sauce pan, cover and keep hot over low heat.

In a large heavy pot, melt 2 tbsp of the butter. Add the rice and stir to coat. Add 1/2 cup of simmering broth and stir until almost completely absorbed, about two minutes. Continue cooking the rice, adding the broth 1/2 cup at a time. Stir constantly and allow to absorb broth in between each addition. This should take about 20 minutes max. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining butter, parmesan, white wine, salt, and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve immediately with a whole hen per person and a chilled glass of our Saltwater Farm Vineyard 2012 ‘Gold Arc’ Estate Chardonnay.

Finally, graciously accept all of the nods of approval sure to come your way. Yes, even from your “Martha Stewart” Aunt.

Cheers to the perfect pairing,

For another seasonal food and wine pairing, check out this post.

Recipes adapted from: Food and Wine, Giada de Laurentiis, and the Deen Bros. Cookbooks.

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