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Pairings: Risotto with chardonnay

Published: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 at 2:00 p.m.

Our Wine of the Week, Flora Springs 2012 Napa Valley Barrel Fermented Chardonnay ($35), is a crowd pleaser, offering a big mouthful of fruit from the first sip to the last. Oak is reined in, leaving mango, papaya, Bartlett pear, chermoya and Golden Delicious apple on center stage.

There is a flourish of honey, too, which hooks up with the wine's alcohol, 14.2 percent, to give a perception of sweetness that encourages the fruit flavors to blossom. Yet there are also enough citrusy flavors and acidity to keep the wine refreshing and lively. I think it is best served cold but it does not turn flabby as it warms in the glass.

At the table, you'll enjoy this wine with shellfish, especially lobster, scallops and rock shrimp. It also resonates beautifully with polenta, carrots, turnips, beets, parsnips, sweet potatoes, bananas, chicken and pork tenderloin, and it goes well with mild curries made with coconut milk. A simple chicken curry with banana raita alongside is a beautiful match.

It will also snuggle up nicely with paella, which is, admittedly, a big production for the home cook, especially if you don't have previous experience making it. For those who do and may want to tackle it to enjoy with this wine, I've posted a recipe for my version of a fairly simple paella at “Eat This Now,” which you can find at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.

For today's recipe, I'm pairing the sweet earthy flavor of carrots and the sweet briny taste of scallops with creamy rice for a voluptuous dish.

Seared Scallops and Carrot-Cumin Risotto

Makes 3 to 4 servings

5 tablespoons olive oil

3/4 pound carrots, peeled and cut into small dice

5 to 6 cups chicken stock or broth, hot

2 shallots, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

— Kosher salt

1 1/2 cups Carnaroli or Vialone Nano rice

— Black pepper in a mill

3 tablespoons clarified butter

1 pound fresh sea scallops, rinsed, patted dry and seasoned all over with salt and pepper

1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted

1/2 lemon

3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

1/2 lemon, cut into wedges

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a small skillet over low heat. Add the carrots and saute gently until tender, about 15 minutes. Add 1 cup of the stock, increase the heat to medium-high and simmer until the stock is reduced by three quarters. Set aside.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute until soft and fragrant, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and ground cumin, season with salt and saute for 2 minutes more.

Add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon until each grain begins to turn milky white, about 2 minutes. Add the stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring after each addition until the liquid is nearly absorbed; it will take about 18 to 20 minutes. When the rice is almost tender and just a bit of stock remains, fold in the carrots. Taste, correct for salt, season generously with black pepper, cover and remove from the heat. Working quickly, heat the butter in a medium saute pan set over high heat. When it is hot, add the scallops in a single layer. Cook for 90 seconds, turn and cook for 90 second more. Transfer to a warm plate.

Stir the remaining stock into the risotto and divide among individual soup plates; sprinkle with a little toasted cumin seed and top with some of the scallops. Using the lemon half, squeeze a little juice over each portion of scallops and risotto.

Garnish with parsley and lemon wedges and serve immediately.

Michele Anna Jordan hosts “Mouthful” each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 90.9 & 91.1 FM. E-mail Jordan at michele@micheleannajordan.com. You'll find her blog, “Eat This Now,” at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.

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