Challenge holiday convention with roast hen and Chianti
Celebrity chef and restaurateur Mark McEwan drew inspiration from his Italian restaurant for his new cookbook of the same name, Fabbrica (Penguin Canada, $39). This classic, universally appealing cuisine is perfect for family dinners, especially around the holidays. We love the Food Network Canada personality’s fabulous recipe for Pan- Roasted Baby Chicken with Tomato Passato (available online at vinesmag.com), alongside other traditional Italian offerings in the cookbook like the perfect pizza and risotto. “I’m not sure I would mess with holiday turkey,” McEwan says. “I rather enjoy the tradition and unique flavour it offers.” You may not want to shake things up for the main holiday event, but this recipe would be a welcome feast on cold December nights and is posh enough for entertaining guests. The twist of using Cornish Rock Hens turns the presentation on its head. McEwan says the bird’s flesh is tender and it’s adaptable for home chefs who might want to mix up future poultry recipes. Pair it with full-bodied, food-friendly Chianti Classico and you have something that brings unexpected joy to your table.
Click here for the Pollastrello Arrosto con Passato di Pomodoro Recipe
Why It Works
Chianti Classico is Cornish hen’s perfect match, says McEwan. The Tuscan blend of a minimum of 80% Sangiovese grapes has shaken off the bad reputation created by dumpy straw-enclosed bottles. Well-made Chianti doesn’t overwhelm the hen’s tender white meat, but has enough punch to play up the roasted tomato flavours.
Outside the Box
Like any piece of poultry, there are many options for preparing Cornish hen. McEwan advocates for sticking with roasting, however. “It brings out all the goodness of the skin, which carries the flavour,” he says. “It renders the fat properly, again extracting maximum flavour.” Stick with tradition on this one.