Carolina Gold Rice Grits Cakes
All rice is not equal.
I have had creamy rice before, but this was another branch in the tree of amazing grains.
People from Anson Mills in South Carolina were at the Seed Savers Exchange Annual Conference last weekend, and beforehand they offered to mail me their Carolina Gold Rice Grits if I would use it in the conference’s Saturday evening meal. They sent ‘middlins’, or rice grits, which cook up in a similar manner to a creamy arborio rice. Since classic risotto doesn’t hold up well to waiting around the best option for the off-site nature of this event was to make little patties with the rice grits, basically a risotto cake made with their middlins.
Anson Mills specializes in organic heirloom grains, resurrecting some of the old seed stock so it may be available to the world. Red trentilo flint corn, Appalachian blue corn, Japanese buckwheat, Sea Island Red Pea, African benne and Abruzzi rye are some of the older and flavorful crops they are keeping alive and in the culture.
Carolina Gold Rice Grits are the ‘shorts’ or ‘middlins’ that result after this fragile rice has been processed. These broken pieces produce a silky texture very similar to risotto, and the flavor of this sweet Carolina Gold is delicate. Rice Grit Cakes are like risotto-meets-polenta, then fried or baked. The slow-cooked middlins were beautifully sticky and soft enough to spread onto the pan, and it immediately began setting up in that gelatinous way that certain leisurely-simmered grains do so well.
Originally from Africa and Indonesia, Carolina Gold Rice is a sweet, non-aromatic long grain rice. It “was the basis of the colonial and antebellum economy of Carolina and Georgia” and “considered the grandfather of long grain rice in the Americas” (SlowFood) but after the Depression was replaced by other varieties and nearly lost. There’s a lot to that story….read more about Carolina Gold Rice on the Slow Food USA site, and more about the Carolina Rice Kitchen intertwining the culture and cuisine of the Venetians, Africans and Native Americans who helped build the rice empire in the south.
I used the recipe from Anson Mills but reduced the liquid from four cups to three. It recommends to cut the cooled cake into circles then dip the patties in flour and fry in a cast iron pan, but since I was serving 285 people I wanted a simpler method for that kind of quantity. So when I made this sample batch I tried multiple ways of finishing the cakes:
1) Used a cookie cutter to make round cutouts, removed the circles from the pan then baked them on an oiled sheet pan
2) Sliced them into triangles then baked them on an an oiled sheet pan
3) Sliced them into triangles then left them in this cooling pan and baked them—the way I would finish off polenta
4) Used a cookie cutter to make cutouts, dipped them in rice flour and fried them as is recommended…just to see what that kind of perfection is like.
The #4 fried method produces a great best texture….great for home but no way would I do that for 285 people.
The best method for both quantity and cuteness was #1: I cooked all of the rice one day and spread it into oiled pans to a thickness between 3/4 and 1 inch then refrigerated them overnight. Using a cookie cutter I cut the circles out of the congealed rice then placed the cute little cakes on an oiled sheet pan. These sat overnight refrigerated then I baked them for 1 hour, removed them from the pan and stored them stacked with parchment paper between layers and kept warm in an insulated box.
These are absolutely being added to my catering menu!
Carolina Gold Rice Grits Cakes
Prep Time: 15 minutes prep, 1-2 hours to chill, then 15 minutes to cut out circles
Cook Time: 40-45 minutes stovetop, 45-60 minutes bake time
Heat and keep warm:
3 cups Chicken or Vegetable Stock
Sauté in heavy-bottomed pan:
2 Tablespoons Butter
3 Tablespoons Shallots, or a combination of Garlic and Onions if you cannot find Shallots
After a few minutes add:
1 cup Rice Grits
Sauté a few minute until the rice begins to have a translucent hue, then deglaze with:
1/2 cup White Wine
1 Bay Leaf
Let this simmer as the rice absorbs the wine, then add:
1 cup of the hot Stock
Sea Salt and Black Pepper to taste
Add the rest of the stock in small quantities as the liquid is slowly absorbed into the rice, just as you would with risotto. This process needs around 45 minutes of cooking. (I made one batch that was not cooked long enough and it didn’t congeal or hold together as well)
When done, stir in:
1/3 cup Parmesan or other hard cheese
Taste and Adjust! Salt and Shallot or Garlic amounts may vary depending on the stock/water that you use.
Remove the bay leaf, then immediately spread the thick rice mixture onto an oiled 9″ x 9″ or a 9″ x 13″ pan, depending how thick you want the cakes to be.
Refrigerate for about 2 hours. Once congealed, use a round cookie cutter to cut out the cakes and transfer them to a well-oiled cookie sheet. They can be stored up to a day.
When ready, bake the cakes 45-60 minutes in a 400 degree oven. The lovely crispy layer on the bottom of the cakes will help hold everything together. Be gentle when removing them from the pan—use a spatula to scrape to keep the bottom side intact.
Make smaller (2 inch) cakes, dredge them in rice flour, then fry in clarified butter and use as a vehicle for your favorite appetizer topping.
Anson Mills suggests serving these smaller cakes with Pickled Shrimp or almost anything: crab, lobster, roasted vegetables, little dollops of a meaty ragu, or a vinegary corn relish.
This exquisite little basket was given to me by fiber artist Donna Kallner after she taught a class on Quixote Coiling at the 2012 Willow Gathering. There is a great photo of the rice in a basket on the Anson Mills site…this is my mimic on a smaller scale to show off this woven beauty.