Entertaining Monterey Wine Country Style

Today's busy schedules can make throwing even the smallest dinner gathering seem like an overwhelming task. Why go through all of the hassle?

David Mirassou, a sixth-generation family member of America's oldest winemaking family, says entertaining is well worth the effort because there is nothing better than enjoying an evening of great food and wine with friends and family.

Mirassou's secret is to focus on making one fabulous feast, such as a popular crowd-pleasing paella that not only feeds everyone, but also creates a festive atmosphere that encourages jovial conversation. To complement the paella, simply purchase a variety of olives and nuts to serve as appetizers, along with a fruit-forward wine, and guests will leave satisfied. Mirassou has adapted his family's classic paella recipe to be even more fitting of his California heritage, complete with fresh seafood, artichoke hearts and Mirassou's new Monterey County Riesling.

Mirassou Monterey Paella

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 45 to 50 minutes

1/2 pound linguica, Italian or Polish sausage, sliced 1/4-inch-thick on the diagonal

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

2 large cloves garlic, minced

11/2 cups long-grain white rice

3 cups chicken stock

1 cup Mirassou Monterey County Riesling

1/4 teaspoon saffron (or 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric and 1/8 teaspoon paprika)

2 ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced

1 package (9 oz.) frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and cut in half

1 small red bell pepper, seeded and diced

8 mussels

8 hard-shell clams

16 medium prawns, peeled and deveined

1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas

Brown linguica or sausage in a large stainless steel pan or skillet for 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring frequently; remove from pan and set aside. Add oil to skillet; add onion and garlic; sauté for 5 minutes. Add rice and cook for 5 minutes more or until translucent; stir in the stock, wine, saffron and linguica or sausage. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer over low heat, loosely covered, for 15 minutes. Remove lid and season to taste with salt and pepper; top with tomatoes, artichoke hearts and bell pepper. Nestle the seafood into the surface of the rice; cover and cook over very low heat, loosely covered, for 10 minutes or until the mussels and clams have opened and the prawns are pink. Stir in peas and cook for 1 minute.

Note: Discard mussels and clams that do not open.

Serving recommendations: Paella is excellent for entertaining, and is best served family style right from the skillet. Garnish with chopped cilantro or parsley and lemon wedges, and pair with the same wine used in cooking the paella. Serves 8.

A single-dish feast, such as paella, can be an excellent idea for people who don't have much time for entertaining.

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About The Author, Wayne Ryan