Maria Helm Sinskey was born and raised in upstate New York. In 1983 she graduated from Union College in Schenectady, NY. A degree in English proved invaluable in her chosen career as a chef. She quickly gained a reputation for spouting sonnets on the line.

After college came a short career in advertising combined with night-time backstage catering for bands that were touring Boston. In a move designed to breakup her long- term relationship with a musician, her parents convinced her to attend culinary school in the great city of San Francisco. The rocker-chef romance soon dissolved and Maria emerged in 1987 as a graduate of the California Culinary Academy.

She attended pastry school in Denmark to hone her sweet tooth and then returned to San Francisco to work as Chef at several noteworthy restaurants: Boz Scagg’s Blue Light Café, the venerable Sherman House – a Relais & Chateaux Hotel, and Plumpjack Café, which she left in 1999 to pursue a life combining family, food and wine in the Napa Valley.

Along the way Maria worked in France at several Michelin starred restaurants, toured Italy and realized that life was good, very good. After returning stateside, Maria garnered many accolades: 1996 Food & Wine Magazine Best New Chef, SF Magazine Rising Star Chef, SF Chronicle Rising Star chef and appeared on many PBS and Food Network Shows.

Nowadays, you will find her cooking at her husband’s winery, Robert Sinskey Vineyards, laying out plots for her organic gardens, teaching, writing and raising two children.

Her first cookbook, “The Vineyard Kitchen: Menus Inspired by the Season”, published by HarperCollins was released in September 2003. “Family Meals: Creating Traditions in the Kitchen”, published by Oxmore House, followed in November 2008. Her mantra is, “Eat seasonally, drink good wine and live a long and prosperous life.”

ROAST GROUSE WITH CHANTERELLES, PAIRED WITH Robert Sinskey Vineyards Pinot Noir 2011

Grouse are such a special treat you mustn’t waste any of the bird. Hopefully your birds will arrive with bones intact so you can make a fabulous stock. If just the boneless breasts arrive don’t despair. A rich chicken stock can substitute and still do the job nicely. While Chanterelles are a delight with this bird other mushrooms should not be substituted. In lieu of chanterelles, serve the bird with roasted potatoes or wild rice pilaf.

Serves 4 to 6 people

The bird:
2 Grouse, about 500-600g each
1 medium shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
1 very thin 6 cm long strip orange peel cut into 4 pieces
Freshly ground black pepper
Fine sea salt
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup minced shallot
1 teaspoon freshly chopped thymes leaves
12 thin slices pancetta

The Stock:
2 medium carrots, peeled and trimmed
1 medium celery rib, trimmed and washed
1 small yellow onion, peeled, trimmed and quartered
1 small tomato, quartered
1 cup dry red wine, Pinot Noir preferred
1 dried bay leaf
3 bushy sprigs of fresh thyme
3 stalks of flat leaf parsley

The Chanterelles:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1 medium garlic clove, minced
300 grams chanterelles, cleaned, trimmed and washed if particularly dirty

1. Remove the breasts from the bird with a sharp knife. Place the breast skin side down (if it had skin intact) on a wooden board then pound lightly with the flat side of a chef’s knife to flatten.

2. Place the breasts in a glass or stainless steel container. Add the sliced shallot, orange peel, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Toss to coat the breasts well. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

3. Preheat oven to 6 (200C). Place the carcasses in a roasting pan and add the carrots, celery, onion and tomato. Roast in the oven about 45 minutes until the bones are well browned.

4. Set a medium stock pot on the stove and add the bones and roasted vegetables. Place the roasting on the stove top and heat over medium heat. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pan using a wooden spoon or similar utensil. Boil for 2 to 3 minutes and then pour over the bones in a pot. Use a rubber spatula to scrape every last bit from the pan into the pot.

5. Cover the one and vegetable by 6 cm with cold water. Add the bay leaf, thyme sprigs and parsley and bring everything to a boil. Reduce the pot to a simmer and cook for 4 to 6 hours until the carcasses fall apart. If the stock falls below the level of the bones, add more water to just cover as needed. Drain the stock through a fine strainer into another pot. Discard the bones.

6. Reduce the strained stock to about 700 ml. Cool in the refrigerator.

7. To make the aromatic stuffing, heat a medium sauté pan over medium high heat.
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and then the shallots. Cook stirring frequently until shallots are golden, about 4 minutes. Add the thyme leaves and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cool thoroughly.

8. Remove the breasts from the marinade, brush off the shallot and orange peel. Lay the breasts flat on a board, skin side down, season lightly with salt and pepper. Divide the shallots evenly between the birds. Make a line down the center of the breast. Starting from one side, roll the breast lengthwise as tightly as possible.

4. Wrap each breast with 3 slices of pancetta. Start at one end and wrap the pancetta around the breast overwrapping the slice by half. Tuck the end of the pancetta under itself at the end of the breast. Chill until the pancetta is firm.

5. Preheat the oven to 6 (200C). Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the butter and when it starts to brown, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the mushrooms and cook until they exude their juices. Season with salt and pepper and continue to cook until the pan juices are almost dry. Add the shallots and garlic and continue to cook until all of the liquid in the pan has evaporated. Add 225 ml of stock and place in the oven. Roast for 20 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the oven and reserve while you sear the grouse.

6. Remove the breast from the refrigerator. Heat a medium sauté pan over medium high heat. When the pan is hot, add the breast and brown slowly on all sides, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat if the fat smokes or the pancetta gets too dark. Remove the breasts to a plate and reserve the pan.

7. Add the chanterelles to the grouse pan and heat until very hot. Add the breasts on top and place in the oven. Roast for 12 minutes, remove from the oven, and let rest for 15 minutes. Slice each breast into 3 rounds and serve on top of the chanterelles.

8. Reduce the remaining stock by half and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve alongside.

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