The beauty of wine and food pairings: Carmenere meets quinoa mushroom risotto

Quinoa Mushroom Risotto
Photo courtesy of Kate Morgan-Corcoran

I’m a quinoa lover. Although I love my animal protein, this savory, high protein grain is a savior to many vegetarians. Quinoa originated in the Andes mountains and is super versatile, has a uniquely nutty flavor and substitutes for practically any nutritionally neutral grain (think white rice or pasta). I featured a mushroom and quinoa risotto on my site late last year, but this recipe — recently enjoyed at a wine luncheon — sadly puts it to shame in the flavor department. The host chef, Ruth Van Warebeek, works for Concha y Toro in Chile and she paired this delectable recipe with a 2011 Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere (CAR min YARE), a grape originally from France now happily residing in Chile’s welcoming climes and soils. Marques de Casa Concha created a soft, silky yet robust Carmenere that cozies up to food in a friendly way.

Carmenere was an acquired taste for me. Green pepper, a sign of under-ripeness in a grape, took a leading role in practically every bottle from Chile. Green peppers are for salads, not wine. But the Chileans have figured out how to farm this grape to make it taste quite fabulous. And pair ethereally with a mushroom quinoa risotto.

Watch Chef Ruth Van Warebeek make this recipe

The Risotto
6 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 1 1/2 cups of hot water for 30 minutes
4 Tablespoons butter
2 scallions, finely sliced
2 cups quinoa, rinsed under cold water
3 ounces smoked pancetta, diced
1 cup Casillero del Diablo Carmenère (or another one)
Salt to taste
2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
5 ounces mature goat cheese, such as Manchego, (3/4 grated, 1/4 shaved)

The Mushrooms
1/4 cup olive oil
10 oz. mixed mushrooms, white cultivated mushrooms, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms etc., finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Prepare the mushrooms:
1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat.
2. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until light golden, 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook and stir until the mixture is dry. Reserve.

Prepare the risotto:
1. Heat the broth in a saucepan and keep warm.
2. Strain the dry mushrooms — reserve and strain the soaking liquid — and chop the mushrooms finely. 3. Melt 3 Tablespoons of the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the scallions and pancetta and cook, stirring continuously, 2-3 minutes.
4. Stir in the chopped mushrooms; cook 1 minute then add the quinoa. Keep stirring the mixture, 1-2 minutes or until the grains are well coated with the butter. Add the red wine and cook, stirring, until the wine has evaporated.
5. Add 1 cup of the reserved mushroom liquid and cook until it is all reduced. Pour just enough hot broth into the mixture to barely cover. Cook, still over medium-low heat and stirring frequently, until the broth has been absorbed almost completely. Continue cooking the risotto in this manner until the quinoa is tender but firm to the bite, about 15-16 minutes.
6. When the risotto is done, add the reserved mushrooms, cook and stir 1 to 2 minutes longer. Stir in 1⁄2 of the parsley, the grated goat cheese and the remaining Tablespoon of butter. At this point the risotto should have a moist and slightly loose consistency.
7. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve at once and decorate with the shaved goat cheese and the rest of the parsley.

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