National Drink Wine Day
Do you really need an excuse to drink wine? Well, one has come along, it’s National Drink Wine Day today. To get into the spirit of things, I thought I would do a fantastic flavor pairing and create a bowl of umami-amped risotto, just by putting some pinot noir, a few kinds of mushrooms, and some Himalayan Pink Rice together.
The old rule of “red wine with beef, white with fish” is no longer in play, especially when it comes to Pinot Noir. Pinot is lighter in weight and less tannic than the old school Cabernets and Barolos that sidle up to hunks of red meat. Besides, that old rule didn’t say anything about vegetables and grains!
Whole Grains Pair with Wine
So, to show off my delicious Pinot Noir, I started with a base of Madagascar Pink Rice. It’s a variety sold by Lotus Foods, and it’s pretty unique. The Madagasscar Red Rice has had 40% of its bran layer scraped off, making it a little less nutritious. Why do it? Because the exposed endosperm will absorb liquids more quickly, and even give up some of the starches that we celebrate in a bowl of creamy risotto.
As much as I love a 100% whole grain, the truth is, when a little bran is removed, it’s much more suited to risotto. I’ve been making risotto with whole grains for many years, and have gone so far as to add some steel cut oats, or even to give the cooked grain a quick spin in the food processor, just to get some of the creamy starches from inside the bran to merge into the stock. Farro, a hefty whole grain, is often sold “perlato,” or “semi-perlato,” which means that the bran layer has been removed to some degree. If you want to make a farro risotto, it will be much easier with a semi-perlato.
The remaining 60% makes a fine showing with the earthy, nutty flavors we love in a red rice, and those flavors go really well with Pinot Noir.
Building Umami With Mushrooms
To really emphasize the umami of the mushrooms, I threw some dried shiitakes and sun-dried tomatoes in water to simmer for the stock. Dried mushrooms are rich in glutamates and guanylate, both of which create the meaty mouthfeel we associate with, well, meat. Sun-dried tomatoes are also a bonanza of umami-boosters. The wine itself has umami, too, thanks to fermentation.
To build the flavor, I used four kinds of mushrooms. The dried shiitakes in the stock, some common button mushrooms in the risotto, seared trumpets on top, and raw enokis for a delicate crunch.
If you want even more umami and are into dairy, Parmesan cheese can be stirred in at the end, too. But you might be amazed at how much flavor is in the risotto from plants alone. Definitely taste it first.
A few sprigs of rosemary cut all that meatiness with a piney herbal note, and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes provides the occasional spark.
So stock up on Pinot Noir, Madagascar Pink Rice and mushrooms, so you can make this revelatory risotto for friends, family, and anyone else you might want to lift a glass with. Get two bottles, to make sure you have plenty after you add it to the risotto!
Pink Rice and Pinot Noir Risotto with Mushrooms
- 4 cups water plus more as needed
- 6 large dried shiitake mushrooms
- 4 sun-dried tomatoes
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil divided
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 8 ounces button mushrooms chopped
- 4 sprigs fresh rosemary divided
- 1 cup Madagascar Pink Rice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup pinot noir
- 4 ounces trumpet oyster mushrooms or other large, meaty wild mushrooms, halved
- 2 ounces parmesan cheese optional
- 2 pinches red pepper flakes
- enoki mushrooms for garnish
- In a 1 quart pot, heat the water, dried mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes over medium heat, just until they come to a simmer, then reduce to low.
- In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, saute onion, mushrooms and a couple of sprigs of rosemary in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until the mushrooms are browned and shrunken, about 5 minutes. Add the pink rice, stir to coat grains thoroughly. Add salt and wine and cook, stirring, until absorbed. Add the mushroom water a cup at a time, stirring often, adding more as it is absorbed. It will take abut 30 minutes to get a nice creamy texture. If you run out of mushroom stock, just add water. Test the rice by biting a grain, when soft, adjust the texture with a little water.
- Heat a large saute pan over high heat. When hot, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and swirl pan to coat. Add the trumpet mushrooms and sear on each side, about 3 minutes. Take off heat and sprinkle with red pepper flakes.
- Serve risotto topped with seared mushrooms, raw enokis, and a sprig of rosemary, and a glass of Pinot Noir.