Carolina Gold Rice Recipe via Macheesmo

Fancy Rice for a Fancy Price

A month or so ago I binge-watched the second season of The Mind of a Chef. The first half of the season centered around master Southern chef, Sean Brock. He is pretty much an expert in all things Southern and his main restaurant, Husk, makes an effort to bring back old world Southern food.

In almost all of the episodes, Chef Brock would spend time talking about his love of heirloom grains. He’s a dedicated seed saver and has a serious passion for bringing back strains that have almost been pushed to extinction.

It’s an honorable goal, for sure, but I was left wondering if it was worth it for the average home cook to search out these grains and use them regularly.

Carolina Gold Rice

In more than a few episodes during the season, Chef Brock talks (and visits) a small mill called Anson Mills that focuses exclusively on bringing back these almost lost heirloom strains of rice and other grains.

The grain he focuses on the most is the rice that Anson Mills first brought back into production, Carolina Gold Rice. It used to basically be the only rice you could find in the south, but then it slowly got pushed out by other, more economical strains.

So, I ordered some!

Note: This is not a sponsored post or anything. I was just curious.

Anson Mills Carolina Gold rice

The stuff of legend!

I was very curious if this rice could hold up in a blind taste test with just plain old long grain white rice. After all, the Carolina Gold rice set me back $7 for 14 ounces while normal rice is about 99 cents per pound. Plus, I had to pay for shipping on the rice to get it to my door!

When I looked at the grains compared to normal rice, there was a small difference, but nothing major. The Carolina gold did seem to be a bit larger.

The blue bowl on the right has the Carolina Gold rice in it and the bowl on the left has the cheap bulk rice.

Rice comparison.

The one on the right is very expensive rice.

Cooking the Rice

Chef Brock recommends cooking the Carolina gold rice in a very specific way. Ironically, it’s basically how I cook all my rice these days plus a nice little touch at the end that involves baking the rice on a low temperature with butter and herbs. We’ll get there.

But first, you bring some water to a simmer with a bay leaf and a pinch of salt and pepper. Once the water is simmering, add the rice. It’s important to use a lot of water here so the grains have room to move around. 6 cups to 1 cup of rice is a good ratio.

I cooked the Carolina gold rice and the normal rice in the exact same way. The Carolina gold rice took about 15 minutes to get to an al dente texture, while the standard rice cooked a bit quicker and was done in about 12 minutes.

Boiling rice.

How I always cook rice.

Drain the rice well after it’s done boiling and spread it out on a large baking sheet.

I had never done the following step for rice, but it’s an awesome trick. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F. and dot the rice with butter and a few bay leaves.

Stick this in the oven and let it bake at 300 degrees F. for about 15 minutes. This will dry out the rice and separate the grains but also infuse them with the butter and bay leaf flavors. All good things.

Again, I did this with both versions of rice for my taste test.

Butter and bay leaf.

Butter and Bay Baby.

My finished version of rice was wonderful. The rice was light and fluffy. The grains were separated nicely (not sticky at all) and it was really flavorful. It was actually some of the best rice I’ve ever made!

Here’s the problem though: Both versions were really good. Even the standard rice, when cooked like this, is pretty delicious.

Carolina gold rice cooked.

Eat it right off the sheet!

The Conclusion

It was pretty impossible for me to judge the two versions without bias. I was pretty sure that the Carolina Gold rice had a slightly sweeter flavor and had a different texture to it, but I didn’t know if it was just because I expected it to have those things.

So I asked Betsy to come try the two versions.

Betsy knew absolutely nothing about this experiment. She didn’t watch the show with me, didn’t know anything about Anson Mills, and definitely didn’t know what Carolina Gold rice was (she also didn’t know that I spent $40 on rice the week before…)

Anyway, she tried both and I asked her to pick her favorite. She immediately said the Carolina Gold rice was better. Not even close.

Carolina Gold Rice tastes better than standard rice.

But, here’s the important part of this post:

You Probably Shouldn’t Buy It

Carolina Gold rice is obviously very important to Southern culture and history. It’s also important to the story Chef Brock is trying to tell at his restaurant. There’s value in that and I totally support it. I would love nothing more than to go to Husk and see how Chef Brock treats this and other heirloom grains.

But, it’s such a high end grain, painstakingly harvested by Anson Mills, that I don’t think it makes sense for most home cooks to use it regularly (unless you can find it at reasonable prices). Occasionally, if you’re really interested in trying different grains, I absolutely recommend you try out some of the grains offered by Anson Mills (I also ordered their popcorn which is pretty stellar).

But there’s really no reason for the average person, struggling to put dinner on the table, to use this stuff for their weekly stir-fries or whatever. Cooking is stressful enough already and it’s my job to try to make it easier. So, it’s important to remember that the perfect is often the enemy of the good and rice is supposed to be one of the most economical meals you can make.

Plus, hey… you can use Chef Brock’s method with any rice. Check it out:

Yield
Serves 2-4.
Prep Time
Total Time

Just a moment please...

Yum

Charleston Ice Cream

Featured on “The Mind of a Chef,” here’s my take on Chef Brock’s preparation of Carolina Gold Rice called Charleston Ice Cream.

Ingredients

6 cups water
1 cup long grained white rice
2-3 fresh bay leaves
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Salt
Black pepper
Print Recipe  

Directions

1) Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. In a large pot, add water, one bay leaf, and a big pinch of salt and pepper. Bring the pot to a simmer.

2) Add the rice and stir once to separate the grains. Then reduce the heat to around medium and simmer the rice until it’s al dente, about 12-15 minutes depending on the exact rice. Drain off a grain or two occasionally and taste it. It’s done when it has a slight bite to it.

3) Drain rice well and spread it out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cut up the butter into small chunks and dot the rice with the butter. Also place a few bay leaves in the rice. Bake rice for 12-15 minutes until butter is melted, rice is mostly dry, and the grains are separated.

4) Serve rice right away while warm. If you want to get fancy you can dot the rice with various small flowers and herbs or you can just eat it with a big ole spoon.

Check out the printed version of the recipe for step-by-step directions.

If anyone has tried this rice, watched the show, or has any thoughts on the subject of heirloom grains, leave a comment!

PS. Putting edible flowers on a bowl of rice is damn silliness.

22 comments on “Fancy Rice for a Fancy Price

  1. Coincidentally, I made lemon basmati rice in my rice cooker last night and it was delicious, took 25 minutes. I am going to try this method the next time. I am hoping that the process will work for basmati since this rice is my favorite. I added thyme and butter at the end having already added lemon zest and juice. I am watching the current series of Mind of a Chef..

  2. This is so amazing! I just also binge watched The Mind of a Chef last week myself, both seasons. The story behind Carolina Gold rice is pretty cool, and I was dying to try this recipe, thanks for putting it together!

  3. My mom taught me to cook rice by boiling rice in a lot of water till done by taste test then straining it and rinse it with hot tap water. Never fails, is always fluffy and never sticky or.mushy. you don’t need a rice cooker.

  4. Looks wonderful! I can’t remember whether you’ve ever posted about Rancho Gordo heirloom beans, Nick. http://www.ranchogordo.com/ They’re grown in places like northern California, Mexico, and Peru, but the Rancho Gordon company is based near San Francisco and run by Steve Sando. These beans aren’t cheap, either, but they sure are good. A few gourmet-ish stores carry them, but I get them once in a while by mail.

  5. Interesting! The people who run our CSA here in the Junc are obsessed with seed saving, and travel around the country to exchange heirloom seeds in hopes of preserving them and germinating them more widely. I wasn’t really familiar with the practice until they talked about it. I agree that it results in much more expensive food, but it’s a neat concept!

  6. My Pennsylvania Dutch forebears saved seeds from one year to the next because if they hadn’t they wouldn’t have had anything to plant! They also rotated crops so as not to wear out their fields the same ways the Indians did. I doubt they knew where the idea came from; just that it needed to be done. And now saving heirloom seeds and crop rotation are considered new.

  7. I watched his bit on The Mind of A Chef, and thought “Why the heck would you put flowers on a perfectly good, perfectly cooked bowl of rice?” Seemed ridiculous, even though it was pretty. So happy someone I “know” aka stalk their blog got the chance to taste the Carolina Gold rice… Thanks for the entertaining, well written, and TESTED recipes. You’re awesome, Nick!

  8. Found some Carolina Gold at the Charleston farmers market today, so picked up a bag to give it a try. I cut the recipe in quarter since I just wanted to try this as a snack this afternoon. I’d never done the oven trick either and it worked great. It’s definitely the best rice I’ve ever made. Being that I only paid $5 for a 1.5lb bag of rice, I def think it’s worth it to try the Carolina Gold.

  9. This recipe doesn’t mention covering the rice while it cooks.
    Should one over the race while it simmers?

    1. I don’t because I boil it with a lot of water. If you cover it, it will probably just boil over. Just boil it like you would pasta until it’s almost done, then drain and steam it (covered) for five minutes. Perfect every time! Good luck!

  10. Yes, this rice is amazing. However spending alot for Anson Mills product and shipping is just not necessary. I checked my local grocery stores and found Waldbaums carries it for just under $4 for a 2 lb. bag. I cannot imagine any other Carolina Gold being significantly different or worth the exhorbitant price of getting it on line. Moral of the story, check your local large grocery stores. BTW, I added both bay leaves and pepitas (dried pumpkin seeds) and it was “over the top.”

    1. This is a couple years late, but helpful info for anyone who finds this on a Google search: if Ansom Mills’ prices are too dear, you can get Carolina Gold rice for cheaper online from Carolina Plantation Rice. It’s the same cultivar of rice, and it comes in a cool cotton cloth bag for $9.80 per two pounds, plus shipping (as of the date of this post.) Avoid the “Carolina Brand Carolina Gold Parboiled Rice” you sometimes see for cheap in grocery stores, which is just normal vitamin-enriched long grain rice. It’s not the Carolina Gold cultivar.

  11. So I saw a program with Anthony Bourdain and I cannot remember the name of the program. Maybe it was the same one you spoke of but since you did not mention him I think it maybe another one. He was at a table eating with one of the founders of Anson Mills. It spiked my curiosity so I too ordered the rice.

    The first time I was going to make it I read the instructions and thought WTF ! Boil the rice, strain it and bake it !!? Are you kidding me. That is too much work so I put it back in the freezer for another day.

    Today was the day.

    Now let me tell you that I am of Caribbean decent. Born and raised in NYC with Latin roots. With that I am trying to explain that we have rice cooking down to a science ! We don’t boil and strain. We boil it and when the water gets low enough that little bubbles are popping out of the top of the rice then we lower the flame, cover the rice with (back in the day it was a piece of brown paper bag) paper towel so that when we put the lid on it no steam escapes. 15 minutes later you have perfect rice that even splits down the middle of the grain. Rice doesn’t do that in California. I need east coast rice, lol.

    Back to Carolina Gold. I made it how they suggest and it tasted really great ! I have never made rice with Bay Leaves so I will have to try other rice with Bay Leaves to see if that was the difference. My husband was crazy about Carolina Gold.

    Sceptic that I am, I went and made another cup of the rice the way I make rice. It tasted good but not the same as the baked rice so I poured it on the pan and baked it. Unbelievable, it makes a difference in the flavor and texture. I am a believer !

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