Living near the Augusta Country Wine Trail has many advantages, the biggest one being year-round access to more than a dozen family-owned wineries. So depending on what I feel like cooking for dinner, it’s only a short drive to find the perfect wine, especially for this classic risotto dish.
Most risotto recipes call for a ‘dry white wine’ which leaves a pretty wide-open range of possibilities. Sauvignon Blanc tends to be most chefs first choice; however, for steaming muscles, I prefer an aromatic, dry, Viognier with a balanced level of acidity and one that pulls in flavors like fresh herbs, stone-fruits, and honey.
Pair those flavors with chewy, creamy, garlicky risotto, rich parmesan cheese, and tender clams, and you have a beautifully elegant and tasty dinner.
And I always follow the golden rule when it comes to wine. Cook with the wine you plan to serve with the meal.
2 pounds black mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
6 garlic cloves, 3 crushed, 3 minced
5 cups vegetable stock
2 cups Arborio rice
2 large shallots, finely chopped
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 cups Viognier wine
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup freshly grated aged Parmesan
2 tablespoons butter
Freshly ground black pepper
1) Combine the wine, 1 cup of the stock, the crushed garlic and fresh thyme in a deep saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
2) Add the mussels to the pan, cover, and cook 6 to 8 minutes, shaking the pan as the mussels steam. Remove the shells as they open, and transfer them to a bowl to cool. After 8 minutes, discard any shells that have not opened.
3) Strain the liquid from the saucepan through a fine mesh strainer into a small bowl and set aside.
4) Remove the mussels from their shells, and place them in a covered bowl to keep warm. Discard the shells.
5) Using the same saucepan, heat the olive oil in the pan over medium heat and add the shallots. Cook for about 5 minutes until softened.
6) Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
7) Add the rice to the pan and stir to coat. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until the rice is lightly toasted.
8) Using a soup ladle and starting with the reserved pan juices followed by the stock, add a ladleful of the liquid to the rice at a time, stirring in between additions until the rice soaks up the liquid. Continue until you have only one ladle of liquid remaining. This should take about 20 to 25 minutes from the first liquid addition.
9) When the rice has reached al dente tenderness, stir in the last ladleful of liquid, the mussels, butter, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 2 minutes until the mussels are heated through, and the butter has melted.
10) Stir the parmesan cheese into the risotto, cover the pan and remove it from the heat. Let the risotto rest for 2 minutes before serving.