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Carolina Gold Risotto: Winter Perfection

Carolina Gold Rice Risotto with Loire Valley Chenin Blanc from natural winemaker Nicola Reau

It’s no secret for anyone who knows me or has read any of my ponderings on food…I am a huge fan of healthy-ish cooking. I believe that I first came across this cute term in Bon Appetit magazine, and I just can’t resist appropriating it from time to time.

Case in point: a recent healthy-ish dish (and wine pairing) that I must share: Carolina Gold Risotto with Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Turnips. In the winter, I simply cannot eat enough Brussel sprouts or turnips. They both achieve that sweet umami combo upon roasting that makes them positively addictive.

Now, if I was truly healthy I would serve this alongside some pan roasted local grouper and call it a day. And sometimes I do this. But this chilly weather has me craving a bit more. And while others turn to potatoes or pasta I am a total rice-o-file! I suppose living in Louisiana and South Carolina has worn off on me, and especially the discovery of the sublime deliciousness of Carolina Gold Rice. For me, there’s just no better rice than this heirloom variety that was saved from extinction by a couple of Carolina guys.

The starch properties of this rice makes it cook a bit differently than say Jasmine rice, but these same starch properties make it perfect for risotto! And that’s exactly what I did on a recent, cold Sunday evening when I craved just a little something more to go with my healthy roasted veggies.

Thankfully, I had the perfect wine in the fridge to pair with this rich (yet veggie forward) meal! And yes, that wine was Chenin Blanc (my favorite)! Specifically, Attention Chenin Mechant from Nicolas Reau. I only recently became acquainted with the wine of Reau, and I am in love with his wine and his story. Supposedly, his intro to wine came at the early age of eight when his grandfather would sneak him small glasses of red wine at family gatherings. Reau fell under the wine spell but felt there was no way to pursue it as a career since he did not come from a winemaking family. Instead, he studied to become a concert pianist but while at school he came across an ad in the university newspaper for professional degrees in enology. He took a chance, followed his dream, and now owns seven hectares of Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc in the Anjou subregion of the Loire Valley. Along the way he met and ultimately married famous French wine writer Sylvie Augereau who became a leader in the natural wine movement.

Today, Reau farms according to biodynamic principles and does not use sulfur dioxide in the cellar. His “Attention Chenin Mechant” tastes of ripe peaches, golden apples, pears, chamomile tea, and my favorite Chenin attribute: Parmesan cheese rind!

It stood up to the Carolina Gold Risotto and also acted as a perfect foil (with that inherent and lovely acidity cutting through the richness of the dish).

P.S. To learn how to make the risotto and buy this lovely rice -- click here to be taken to Anson Mills website. They are one of the saviors of Carolina Gold and many other heirloom southern grains!

P.P.S. Other favorite Loire Valley Chenins that might be easier to find: Champalou Vouvray, Arnaud Lambert Clos Midi, or Domaine Huet Vouvray (<-- for more of a splurge)!

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