Charleston’s King of Rice Takes this Classic Comfort Food to a New Level
Growing up in rural New England in the 1970’s, rice (which usually came from a tired plastic bag or Minute brand white rice box) didn’t thrill me, to say the least. Potatoes, especially my Nanna’s mashed version, were another matter. It wasn’t until much later when I became acquainted with aromatic rices and Arborio that I started to really appreciate it and experiment with it in both savory and sweet dishes. But, when I moved to Charleston in 2000, I discovered rice nirvana in the form of Carolina Gold rice. Almost golden, you can taste it well before you put it in your mouth. Its buttery, hazelnut aroma/flavor entices your nose even as you sift it through the canvas bag in which it is most often stored. It is on every Charleston holiday table and supper tables several times a week and is the stuff of pirlou dreams.
Carolina Gold was the first commercial rice produced in the United States. By 1820, 100,000 acres of the rice was growing throughout the South, where it especially thrived growing in the tidewaters and marshes of South Carolina, Georgia, and North Carolina. It was a staple of the Lowcountry economy, which prior to The Civil War, was supported largely by the rice planting and harvesting skills of slaves imported from western Africa. The commerce thrived, and by the middle of the 18th century, was a dominant stepping stone of both the Charleston/Lowcountry economy as well as her inhabitant’s lusty appetite for the gloriously fragrant and delicious rice. The Civil War and merciful end to slavery as well as time all but killed production of the the cherished rice. Fortunately, growers such as Anson Mills (click for purchase or to learn more about the rice) resurrected its complicated production and harvesting.
The composition of the rice lends itself to fluffy, individual grains, a creamy risotto kind of mixture or sticky, depending on how it’s cooked. Fall gets me thinking about all things comfort, which gets me thinking about Carolina Gold rice, which gets me thinking about Carolina Gold rice pudding, which is exactly what I put together this past weekend. Cooked in milk and stirred frequently, like a risotto, it naturally forms a pudding “sauce” of its own, no eggs required. While it’s still hot, stir in some sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, orange zest, and butter and let it set and cool for a for a few hours. Meanwhile, simmer raisins in fresh orange juice, cinnamon and rum. That also sits to absorb and eventually they’re all mixed together and the pudding is blended with a final kiss of freshly whipped cream to give it a mousseline airiness. It is divine. Try some on your holiday table this year. Rice pudding will never taste quite the same to any of your guests ever again. Don’t add the fresh whipped cream until within an hour or so of serving. All the rest can easily be prepared a day ahead.
Comforting Carolina Gold Rice & Rum Raisin Pudding
(Makes 8 generous servings)
4 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
3/4 cup well rinsed and drained Carolina Gold rice
Zest of 1 orange
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Generous pinch salt
For the raisins:
1 cup raisins
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup light rum
1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Generous pinch salt
To finish the pudding:
1 cup very cold heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
Bring the milk and the 1/2 teaspoon salt to a low boil in a large, heavy-bottomed sauce pan. Add the rinsed rice and stir to combine. Reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered and stirring every few minutes, until very tender and most of the milk is absorbed, about 25 minutes. It will have a creamy, wet consistency similar to risotto. Meanwhile, turn your attention to the raisins. Combine the raisins, orange juice, rum, vanilla extract, cinnamon and salt in a small saucepan. Bring up to a boil and reduce to a lively simmer. Cook until the liquid has reduced to just about 1/4 cup, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and turn out into a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least three hours or overnight to macerate and mature the flavors. Return to finish the rice, when done cooking and still very warm, turn out into a large bowl with the orange zest, 3/4 cup sugar, butter, vanilla, cinnamon and generous pinch salt. Stir well to combine. Cover tightly and refrigerate three hours or overnight.
To finish the pudding (within an hour or so of serving), whip the heavy cream with the remaining 2 teaspoons of sugar until firm peaks have formed. Stir one-third of the whipped cream into the cold pudding along with the reserved, cold raisins. Gently fold another third of the whipped cream into the rice pudding until well but gently blended. Serve cold in an attractive serving bowl or in individual pudding cups or ramekins with a generous dollop of the remaining whipped cream.
Upcoming Book Signing
Come see me this Saturday, October 20 for the Daniel Island Library Harvest Tour of Homes.
I will be situated in the beautiful home at 341 Lesesne Street on Daniel Island from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. signing copies of my latest cookbook, The New Charleston Chef’s Table. Would love to see you there! It makes a lovely gift anytime of year, but especially during the holidays for the Charleston loving cook in your life.
Not Just for the Cheeseboard Anymore
I’ve been very much indulging my love of all things French lately. First, there was the decadent pairing of Provencal Roses with McCrady’s five-course lunch two weeks ago (http://hollyherrick.com/2014/11/pink-new-red-white/), where I was reminded that Rose is not just meant for drinking, but also for pairing with foods. Then there was the lovely, heady, and incredibly fragrant array of cheeses presented to me in my home last week by a dedicated team of cheese brand representatives working under the umbrella of The Cheeses of Europe.
Their mission? To spread the word about French cheese as an “affordable luxury.” And, not one that should be relegated exclusively to the cheeseboard. Indeed – many French cheeses (with the exception of a Delice de Bourgogne, and a few others, with its buttery center and extreme creaminess is best left unadulterated and served on shortbread with a glass of Champagne), are ideal for cooking.
There I sat like a deleriously happy French cat, sampling cheeses from Isigny Sainte-Mere, French Cheese Club, and Interval Cheeses – a full spread of Brie, Mimolette, butter, Epoisses, Pont l’Eveque, Delice de Bourgogne, Bleu D’Auvergne, Saint Angel, and a first ever sample of airy whipped cheese (which made its way onto my toast every day for a week until it was gone). Dreams of Bleu d’Auvergne Mornay sauce cloaking a French-inspired lasagna, or a decadent fondue were running through my head, even as my dog Tann Mann worked himself up into a frenzy to fenagle any tidbit he could forage from the table’s edge. French was being spoken, cheese was being savored, and I was feeling very happy and inspired.
Of all the cheeses, the one that spoke the loudest to my culinary inspiration soundboard was the deep orange orb of Mimolette (mee moh LET) cheese from Normandy, France.
It was introduced by Louis XIV (a.k.a. The Sun King) in the 17th century. The colorful King wanted a different kind of cheese and the sun-like, blazing color is creatied by adding annatto from a tree by the same name that is indigenous to South America. Traditionally, the older, aged cheese was cut and brought down into mines and used to “sandwich” meats to feed the mine-workers.
I confessed to my new French cheese friends that I had never made it past the “stinky” cheese section of my favorite local fromagier, goat.sheep.cow, and that I wanted to work specifically with this cheese. Two nights ago, I made a simple grilled cheese, stacking thin slices of young Mimolette with a few threads of fresh mozzarella, basted with a thin spread of mayonnaise and prepared horseradish. Gorgeous! The melted Mimolette is molten and slightly stringy, but still holds its body. That’s why it’s an exellent candidate for the Mac and Mimolette recipe to follow. (Recipe provided by The Cheeses of Europe).
Mac and Mimolette
1/2 pound shell pasta
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup grated Mimolette, plus more for sprinkling
1 large tomato, finely chopped.
Preheat oven to 350F. Cook the pasta according to directions. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, gently simmer the cream, sugar, salt and wine for 4 to 5 minutes. Be sure it doesn’t boil or it will become grainy. Add the Mimolette and stir until melted. Stir in the tomato. Mix the pasta into the sauce, then pour into a baking pan. Sprinkle awith the remaining Mimolette and bake for 10 minutes. Serve hot/warm.
Working French Cheese Into Your Thanksgiving Feast
The recipe above would pair wonderfully with turkey or fowl as a fragrant, wonderful side dish hot out of the oven. Prep it ahead and bake it off while the main course is resting. If you do opt for a cheese tree to start or finish the meal, do select at least three varieties of cheeses: a melty, soft stinky cheese such as an Epoisses, a mild, fragrant blue, such as Bleu D’Auvergne, and something firm and assertive, such as a Mimolette. Serve on bread, simple crackers, and surround with fruit.
More Cooking with French Cheese Ideas and Cookbook Giveaway
One of my favorite recipes in my latest cookbook, The French Cook – Soups & Stews is a fondue-inspired Three-Cheese and Cider Soup with Apples and Four-Spice Croutons, which runs with the nuttiness of Gruyere and Comte cheeses (as well as Parmesan), and then there is my classic, especially delicious version of French Onion Soup, covered with a gooey cloak of Gruyere (pictured below).Write to me in the comment section following this post and tell me why you would like to receive a free, signed copy of the cookbook, and why you love to cook with and eat French cheese. I will select and announce a winner on November 24 and get it to you just in time for the holidays.
Happy cooking and bon appetit! Please not, here in Charleston, most or all of these cheeses can be found at Whole Foods, Costco and goat.sheep.cow.