Vinho Verde and Arroz de Bacalhau (Rice with cod)

Vinho Verde and Arroz de Bacalhau

A simple dinner inspired by a simple Vinho Verde from Portugal.

Vinho Verde white wine

Espiral Vinho Verde white wine.

I love Vinho Verde.  I don’t typically drink soft drinks, soda, pop, coke…what ever you might refer to it as in your neck of the woods, but bubbles in my wine…well, I’m a sucker for that.  Vinho Verde, takes me back to the fresca of my youth.  I didn’t like it at the time, but now, it’s a flavor I crave in the heat of summer and Vinho Verde gets it for me.  It’s not typically an expensive wine, this one was under $5 at Trader Joes.  The bubbles?…yeah, not naturally occuring, but I’ll live with that.  At some point a Vinho Verde producer had a little natural effervescence sneak into his wine and people loved it so much that most producers adopted the practice of adding it.

While I was looking for something cool, I also needed something authentic and good for my soul.  Michael had been working and I wanted a nice curl up dinner to fill him up without being too fancy, and I wanted a good traditional pairing for my Vinho Verde. I came across a recipe for Arroz de Tamboril, which is a Portuguese dish “rice with monkfish”.  Sadly the butcher told me they had no monkfish, but…they had some cod loins.  So I adapted.  The cod loins would be meaty and delicious and the fact that they were frozen, only helped me in cutting them into the perfect bites for in the dish.

Arroz

The French have risotto, the Spanish paella and the Portuguese have arroz.  These are those comforting creamy rice dishes that are meant to be eaten (IMHO) out of a bowl with a spoon, and they are great for date night (big bowl, two spoons).  You need a rice with starch here to get that creaminess, so don’t look for long grain.  The long grain rice is meant to keep from getting sticky and sticky is what you want here.  I found a bag of arborio rice that worked perfectly, but you can use a medium or short grained rice.

The recipe

I riffed on a recipe from Sorted “Arroz de Tamboril – Monkfish Rice

Ingredients for Arroz with Cod loins

Ingredients for my Arroz with Cod loins

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As I mentioned, I riffed on the recipe, so here is my version

Ingredients

  • 2 cod loins
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 1 onion (Michael doesn’t like onion, so I used a little less
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup parsley
  • 1 green pepper
  • 3 roma tomatoes
  • paprika
  • 1 carrot
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine (I used the vinho verde)
  • 400 g arborio rice (almost a small bag)
  • salt
  • pepper

You will notice the bay leaf in my ingredient shot.  I actually bailed on using that.  It was the last I had and I wasn’t feelin’ it.

So here’s what I did.

I cut the partially frozen cod loin into good size chunks.  Something you wouldn’t mind spooning out of your bowl to eat.  Then tossed it with olive oil, salt, pepper and sweet paprika.  Then set this aside to marinate while I worked on everything else.

Now time to make the broth.  I finely chopped 1/2 of the onion, 2 cloves of garlic, parsley and carrot.  They get braised until they are golden.  Ideally you would throw in fish bones here, but I didn’t have any, so I moved on to adding some water.  500 ml is about 2 cups.  Bring it to a boil, then turn it down to simmer for about 10 minutes, then set aside off the heat.

Chop the rest of the onion the last of the garlic and the green pepper.  The tomatoes need to be peeled and diced, so here’s the trick.  Boil a little water, and toss each in for a couple minutes.  I actually cheated and filled my 2 cup measuring cup with hot tap water and tossed them in one at a time.  After a couple minutes or so in the hot water, make an “X” through the skin on the bottom and peel the skin off.  Then you can quarter them and clean out the seeds and chop them.

Sweat the onions, garlic and green pepper over a low heat with olive oil (3 to 4 tbs, so more than you think).  You want to get most of the moisture out.  Then turn the heat up and braise them a bit.  Now you can toss in your rice and stir it around to coat it in the oil.  Stir it around for a couple minutes then add the wine and cook until it has completely evaporated.

Now you can strain the broth (I saved the veggies to add to other dishes).  Measure out 4 cups of broth adding water if needed.  The idea is twice as much broth as rice and you added 2 cups of rice.  Now you can season with salt, pepper, paprika and even cayenne if you want it spicier.  Get this to a boil and then add the tomatoes and fish, cover and cook 10 minutes.  Add the cilantro and take it off the heat.  Leave it covered for5 to 10 minutes DON’T TOUCH IT!

Now toss it in a bowl, curl up and enjoy!

Arroz de Bacalhau

Arroz de Bacalhau

 

Other pairings

I had picked up a cheese to pair with this.  Goat cheese is a definite go to and in addition I picked up a truffled goats milk cheese in a bloomy rind.  Some strawberries for a little sweetness and some anchovies to pair with that seaspray in the wine.

Vinho Verde with goats milk cheeses and anchovies

Vinho Verde with goats milk cheeses and anchovies

In Portugal this would be a simple dinner.  It is wholesome and delicious and made for a perfect pairing.

I mentioned that I like Vinho Verde, didn’t I?  We have written about it before, here are a couple links.

Summer Heat with a refreshing Vinho Verde

Pairings at the Keyboard! Vinho Verde.

Guilty pleasures

Check back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles  for more great recipes, wine pairings and great stories on wine travel and the people behind the wines!  Or visit us on social media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

 

Summer Heat with a refreshing Vinho Verde

Food pairing with Vinho Verde

It’s hot. I mean, Vegas Hot, which is like someone opened the oven in your face when you walk out the door. A little breeze? Yeah, that feels like they turned on the blow dryer. We acclimate, but often you just need something refreshing. So you sit in the air conditioning pour a glass of Vinho Verde and ask Alexa to play ocean waves. If the fan is on in the living room you can pretend it’s an ocean breeze.  Here, I pulled up a bit of sunset from off the Pacific Coast highway to put you in the mood.

Well tonight is the night for that getaway. The Vinho Verde is chilling in the fridge and I have put together a menu to compliment it.

Vinho Verde. It means “green wine” or rather “young wine” by intent. This wine is meant to drink in the first year. And while the name indicates that it is a young wine, the name actually stands for a region in Northern Portugal, where these wines are made.

Espiral Vinho Verde

Vinho What?

Vinho Verde. It means “green wine” or rather “young wine” by intent. This wine is meant to drink in the first year. And while the name indicates that it is a young wine, the name actually stands for a region in Northern Portugal, where these wines are made.  You can learn more about this region on the Wines of Portugal site.

What grape do they use?

Most often Alvarinho and Loureiro, but also Arinto, Trajadura, Avesso, and Azal, among others. So, as you see, the variety and range can be wide.  Still these wines are typically made in a similar style.

What’s that fizziness?

Yeah, it’s kinda effervescent. At least sometimes. Originally this was because the bottles would still be fermenting a little after they were capped and that locked in some of the CO2. Now…well honestly, it’s often added. But regardless, it does make it refreshing.

So what are you eating it with?

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Seafood is always a good bet. A meatier white fish or something fried. We are having fried Calamari and Mahi Mahi burgers. It goes well with green vegetables, so I’m going to have a salad with some avocado (a little fat that the acid in the wine will cut through). Creamy rice dishes and potato dishes also pair well, so we will be doing a brown rice and quinoa blend with onions, butter, lemon juice and zest and some parmesan cheese, and latkes. I think arancini balls would be great with this too. We will taste it with Salmon, smoked trout, goat cheese and a parm/gouda blend also.

Now…about the wine.

This Vinho Verde is from  Espiral.  The wine is bright and when I close my eyes I can feel sea spray flying up from where it is crashing on the wet rocks (there’s my mini vacation). In my mouth it fizzes and opens with a bright tangy citrus. It’s lemon pop without the sweetness or the tartness of “Fresca” (who remembers Fresca?) without the bitterness. It’s joyful as well as thoughtful. The initial sip brings a smile that almost erupts to a giggle and then melts into a quiet moment of savoring, like closing your eyes to capture a moment at sunset on the beach. That…that is what is here in this glass, that balance of euphoric joy and a content sense of peace.

What did it bring to the food?

The calamari was fine. This is such a typically pairing that it was good without sending off any bells and whistles. The Latkes, now that was another story. The potato and onion had such richness and the lemon and acid in the wine cleaned your palate for the next bite. I could have continued eating this combination all night. Our salad of greens would have been fine alone with the wine, but add the avocado to give it some creaminess and fat to cut through, a little goat cheese for some tang and a vinaigrette of lemon juice, olive oil and thyme and the pairing had real depth in each bite. The Mahi Mahi had a lemon butter sauce  of lemon juice, melted butter salt, a dash of Worcestershire sauce and fresh thyme.   The weight of the fish and the lemon butter were perfect and the fresh thyme added this bit of unexpected depth that all played very nicely with the wine. Our grain was brown rice with quinoa to which I added butter, lemon juice, lemon zest and grated Parmesan cheese. Again, the creaminess and the lemon were perfect with the wine, the creaminess balanced the acid and the lemon popped back in to match. So like contrasting and complementary colors, these flavors pulled from different sides of the flavor wheel to make for a happy mouth.

Vinho Verde with Mahi Mahi, brown rice, avocado salad, calamari and latkes

We also tried it with a smoke salmon and a smoked trout.  The salmon was fine (kinda like the calamari).  I did notice that the flavor disappeared at first and then slowly returned to fill my mouth.  The trout on the other hand was really wonderful with the wine.  Being smokier it felt richer than the salmon and complimented the lemon and mineral nature of the wine.  This was an unexpected happy mix, inland creeks longing to return to the sea.

What I learned about pairing with Vinho Verde

Lemon, lemon, lemon

….that punch of lemon in your dish will reach out for the wine and want to dance.

Something richer and creamy

Then add a little creaminess, some fat to cut through, like the butter and cheese in the rice or the goat cheese and avocado in the salad. Or the richness of the potato and onion in the Latkes.

Fried is good

This wine is great with things that are fried, the salt and fat coat your palate and the acid and fizziness of the wine leave you with a clean slate for the next bite.  (like the calamari and most definitely the Latkes)

Seafood is a really good bet

The Mahi Mahi paired nicely because of the weight and the sauce.  A lighter fish I think would have disappeared.  Any fish that is not too delicate should go nicely.  I would like to try it with Swordfish or monkfish. Shrimp is also supposed to be a good bet.  With the minerality…I am also wondering about shell-fish, clams or fresh oysters.  Maybe I’ll try that next time.

Thyme, the unexpected harmony

Most recipes called for basil or parsley and while I can see that, I didn’t have any in the fridge.  I was left with Rosemary and Thyme as my options.  I went with Thyme.  As I added it I was wishing it was a lemon thyme to accent those fragrances, but in the end, I think it was better as it was.  The depth of fragrance really was an unexpected harmony to the meal.  This earthiness, a bit of forest, maybe again it’s that “land meets the sea” creating a balance.

I wrote about Vinho Verde once before and had a different pairing then.  You can check it out here:  Pairings at the Keyboard! Vinho Verde

Stop back here at Crushed Grape Chronicles  for more on wines and pairings and for stories of winemakers in winecountry.  You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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Guilty pleasures…

Espiral Vinho Rose

Michael was working and it was my night off.  Now I love a good bottle of wine, but I would feel really guilty about opening a nice bottle without Michael, so… while shopping at Trader Joe’s I picked up a bottle of Espiral Vinho Rose.  This wine is $4.99. I also picked up some middle eastern flatbread and some tomato basil hummus.  I opened the bottle and got curled up on the coach for some mindless TV and some reading on the iPad.  I did some blog reading (about how those of us reading wine blogs appear to all be wine bloggers and a great WS post from Matt Kramer on the variety of types of wine lovers).

This wine is simple and festive, a wine to be easily enjoyed and poured liberally.   I actually think this wine is better in a tumbler than a wine glass. This is perfect for hot days, the minerality is refreshing and the effervescence cooling.  So go ahead, pour it in a big heavy tumbler and toss some ice in if it’s really hot!  This wine is carefree without being silly, pleasant and unpretentious.  I’ve read reviews of people who love it and people who hate it.  Some call it sweet…I get much more minerality and not much sweetness.  You may love it, you may hate it…that’s wine for you.  It was perfect for my evening.   Come to think of it…I don’t feel guilty after all!

Pairings at the Keyboard! Vinho Verde.

So I’m home alone and it’s time for a bite to eat, soooo I pull out my Kindle and Oldman’s Brave New World of Wine and head to the wine store.  It’s an unfortunate truth that there are not any small family owned wine shops nearby.  I love Khoury’s but they are a 45 min drive in traffic across town.  So…I head to Total Wine and More knowing that they will have something.  I start at the top of the book with Light to Medium Whites and search for a Moschofilero (Mo-sko-FEE-leh-ro), a Greek wine from Southern Greece.  I find a bottle by a producer he recommends Boutari at $12.99

I drop it in my bag to ponder as one of my choices.

I head on to the section with German and Austrian wines to look for an Austrian Riesling.  They are notably drier and less sweet than German Rieslings and his suggestion of lobster in a cream sauce for a pairing has me thinking of the fresh lobster ravioli that I can pick up at Fresh and Easy for a quick dinner and pairing.  I find a bottle from Wachau that is priced at $19.99 and add it to my list to ponder.  It goes through my brain that if I spend $20 on a bottle of wine and $6.99 for the dinner to go with it, it seems a bit excessive and maybe I should wait for Michael for that.

So I’m off to check out the Australian Rieslings, when…I find the tasting counter with a Saturday afternoon tasting.  They are tasting a Petals Muscato from Germany, Paradise Peak Riesling, B Lovely Riesling, Summit Estates Sweet Merlot, a cabernet that I can’t remember and even if I did I wouldn’t mention because it had absolutely no depth, and a Red Decadence chocolate red wine.  I skip the Petals, try the Paradise Peak which is nice for the price, sweet but not too sweet.  The B Lovely is sweeter, still nice but a little too sweet for what I wanted.  The Sweet Merlot had beautiful depth on the nose.  I was happy to leave my nose in the glass there, but then was pretty simple on the palatte.  The Decadence was intriguing.  It is not cream based like so many other chocolate wines that make my stomach turn.  It hits you will cocoa on the nose and then drinks like a dessert wine that is not fortified.  I picked up a bottle because I thought it would make for a simple dessert.  When I got home, I noticed the corner of the label that says “Made with dark chocolate flavor”.  Hmm….so an added chemical flavoring.   Oh well.

I asked about Australian rieslings and was pointed to Alternative Whites with a suggestion of Thorn and Clark.  This Eden Valley Riesling ran $13.99 and I dropped it in my bag and realize my wine bag is now full and I still have an itch for some Vino Verde.  Sooo…The Moschofilero will wait until next time and I grab a bottle of Gazella Vinho Verde.

Driving home I stop at Whole Foods and pick up a sourdough demi, a can of sardines in olive oil and a seasoned squid and mountain vegetable salad from the sushi section.  I search for tomatoes kicking myself for not picking one up this morning at the farmers market.  All the tomatoes at Whole foods are either conventional or if they are organic are shipped in from Mexico.  So, sadly, I forego the tomatoes.

At home I drop the Vinho Verde in the fridge, slice up the demi coat them with olive oil and set them in the broiler, they then get smeared with goat cheese and topped with a sardine.  Loki decides sardines might be tasty and begins curling around my legs.  And…well here I am.

So…The Vinho Verde is tangy and zippy with green notes (think tart green apple) and a little slate.  The squid salad turns out to be a little sweet but pairs nicely.  The goat cheese is not as tangy and some I have had, so it misses a little of that edge to pair with the wine, but is still nice.  Although as I crunch through the crusty sourdough and salty sardine the creamy tangyness is actually another great layer that plays with the wine it a whole new way.  It’s Very nice, but not heaven.  Perhaps if I were not sitting in the office in front of a keyboard, but instead on a white washed balcony overlooking the coast with  salt spray in the air…well then it would be heaven, so maybe it is all about location and ambience.

Vinho Verde if you are not familiar is a wine from Portugal and translates as Green Wine.   It is often a blend of up to 25 grapes from the region with the primary typically Alvarino (Albarino).  It sits typically at around 10% alcohol and Oldman suggested that there should be a faucet for Vino Verde next to every grill!  It set me back about $7.99 and my local Trader Joe’s has picked it up so I have it within easy reach.  Now if they or Total Wine would just pick up a Txakoli!

Okay…Almost done with my dinner, then it’s back to cleaning and planning for tomorrow night’s dinner with Michael, where I hope to pair some great seafood with the Thorn & Clark Mount Crawford Eden Valley 2010 Riesling.

Oh…one last interesting note.  All the wines I purchased today had screw caps.  Guaranteed, I didn’t spend over $13.99 for any of these wines, but….maybe those poor cork trees will get a bit of a rest!