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

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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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