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Oct 2, 2018
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WINE WITH…Spinach Risotto Cakes

This is one of those fortunate dishes that began with leftovers, in this case a generous amount of spinach risotto that had been languishing in our refrigerator for a day or two.  Since risotto tends to turn mushy if it is simply reheated, we formed it into patties, which we fried and served with a rémoulade-style sauce.  We liked the results so much that we now sometimes deliberately convert the original spinach risotto into crispy brown and tasty cakes.

The risotto itself takes no more than 20-30 minutes to prepare.  We make it advance, then form the rice mixture into patties, which we freeze until the day we want to serve them (they may be kept frozen for up to a week before serving).

Spinach Risotto Cakes

Serves 4

We use frozen spinach for its convenience, but you may substitute fresh if you prefer (1 pound of fresh spinach, chopped, should be about the right amount).

In making risotto we have never found it necessary to stir the rice continuously or to heat the liquid before adding it.

The rémoulade may be made up to a day before serving.

For the Risotto Cakes:

1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup minced onions
1 cup Arborio or other short grained rice such as carnaroli, vialone, baldo, or Calriso
1 cup dry white wine
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted but not cooked
4-5 cups chicken broth or vegetable stock
salt and pepper
dash of red pepper flakes (optional)
8 ounces cheddar or taleggio cheese, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil

Heat the olive oil and stir in the onion, cooking until it begins to soften.  Add the rice and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the rice is thoroughly coated with the oil. Turn the heat up and pour in the wine.  Stir the rice frequently until all the wine is absorbed.  Stir in the spinach, then pour in ½ cup of the broth.  Stir frequently, and when most of the liquid has been absorbed, stir in another ½ cup of broth.  Continue doing this for about 20 minutes, or until the rice is soft but still has a little crunch to it.  Season it to taste, then transfer it from the skillet to a wide bowl and let it cool, stirring it occasionally.

Line a sheet pan with waxed or parchment paper.  When the rice has cooled, incorporate the chopped cheese into it (fingers work best for this).  Form it into 6 or 8 flat cakes and place them in a single layer on the sheet pan.  Freeze or refrigerate for several hours or a couple of days.

To cook the risotto cakes, heat the olive oil in a cast iron or other heavy skillet.  Fry the patties in a single layer, working in batches if necessary.  When they are nicely browned on the bottom, turn them and cook the other side.

Serve at once, topping each risotto cake with a spoonful of rémoulade. 

For the Rémoulade:

½ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon-style or grainy mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon capers, finely chopped
2 teaspoons minced parsley
1/2 teaspoon Tabsco or other hot sauce (taste and add more if needed)

Combine all ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to use.

*         *         *

Color doesn’t matter when choosing a wine to pair with this dish, but sweetness does.  The dish won’t work well with an overtly sugary wine, but it certainly benefits from one that has a hint of sweetness in its profile.  Perhaps it’s the rice, perhaps the cheese, but the wines that shined most brightly in our tasting were those that enticed us with their sweet, fruity charms.



Approx. Price





Napa Valley 


Sauvignon Blanc







Showing none of the tart grapefruit, grassy character that distinguishes Sauvignon Blanc outside of California, this wine tastes almost tropical, its fruit flavors more closely resembling ripe melons, figs, guava, and the like.  It is soft, supple, and yes, sexy—not what we usually think of when we open a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, but just right with this dish.


Château D’Esclans,

Côtes de Provence


“Whispering Angel”



(Imported by Shaw-Ross)




This very popular rosé is just slightly off-dry, its berry scented fruit being so ripe and sweet as to give it a slightly sugary edge.  That might not be ideal for aperitif sipping on a blisteringly hot summer day, but it is precisely what made the wine work so well with this dish. 



Russian River Valley


Pinot Noir









Like so many California Pinot Noirs, this wine substitutes cherry cola fruitiness for Burgundian earthiness.  If that makes it somewhat one-dimensional, the dimension can be extremely enjoyable when paired with the right food.  And these risotto cakes, which want sweetness in a wine partner, were just that.



Santa Barbara, Sonoma, Mendocino Counties



“Cuvée Chardonnay”











An artful blend of grapes from different northern California locales, this Chardonnay tastes of ripe fruit with a dash of residual sugar and just the right amount of butter or butterscotch from oak.  Its is a classic California style, fashioned under the direction of a California Chardonnay master.






Chianti Classico




(Imported by Montcalm Wine Importers)










The driest wine we are recommending, this delicious Chianti Classico exhibits taut acidity and terroir-driven Tuscan dust in the finish, but nonetheless is marked in the mid-palate by vivacious dark cherry fruit.  That fruit is what enabled it to work so well with the risotto cakes.  The earthier secondary notes thus were simply an added bonus.