meet the maker: Delta Blues Rice
Rice is an ancient grain, one that’s been consumed for thousands of years and remains a staple component of many diets around the globe. There are over 40,000 varieties of rice in the world, but many Americans are only familiar with a handful. The most ubiquitous rice variety in our country is long-grain white rice and most people don’t think it’s all that special. That’s where Delta Blues comes in.
The Mississippi Delta is known for its dark, rich, fertile soil; elements that make it an ideal place to grow a wide variety of produce, including rice. It’s also the birthplace of blues music, thus inspiring the Delta Blues’ name and their slogan, “Feed the body. Feed the soul.”
Delta Blues Rice is grown, harvested, stored, and milled in small batches all on location at Arant Acres, a 1,000-acre farm in Ruleville, Mississippi that’s been in the family for three generations. Brothers, Hugh and David Arant, along with David Arant Jr. farm the same land that their forefathers have farmed since the 1920s. It’s the Arant’s attention to detail, process, and flavor that makes their rice something special. Most commercial white rice that’s found on grocery store shelves is made in massive quantities. Industrial rice sellers buy bushels of different strains of rice from various farmers, then mill them in one batch, removing the husk, the bran and the germ of the kernels, leaving the less flavorful and often generic white endosperm.
At Arant Acres, the process of growing rice is more controlled, resulting in a superior product. Instead of growing a variety of rice strains, mixing them and selling them as a white rice blend, Delta Blues grows only one specific strain. They have chosen the strain that they believe has the most flavor and grows the best in the Mississippi Delta, though they like to keep the specific details of the strain a family secret. Whenever you open a bag of Delta Blues rice, you can rest assured that it will deliver richer flavor and more consistent cooking results than its mass produced counterparts.
David Arant Jr. is quick to point out that their single strain approach is not the only thing that adds flavor to their rice, it’s also the fact that its milled in small batches and not processed and polished to the point that it loses flavor.
“I had a chef call me one time and tell me that when he opened up a bag of our rice, it smelled fresh. Another customer said when it’s cooking, it reminds her of the smell of her grandmother’s kitchen,” says David Arant Jr. “It’s compliments like these that make the hard work we do worthwhile.”
brûléed breakfast brown rice grits
We absolutely love the brown rice grits from Delta Blues Rice, especially in this indulgent breakfast treat. Make the grits ahead of time and have them ready for an easy breakfast dish for a crowd. We prefer it topped with caramelized bananas and a hint of salt, but it would work with just about any topping or fruit you prefer.
1 1/2 cups brown rice grits, rinsed
3 1/2 cups water
1/4-1/2 cup cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1-2 tablespoons coconut (or regular) sugar, plus extra for brûlée
1 large banana, sliced
Fleur de sel, for garnish, optional
In a saucepan, add grits and water and bring to a boil. Give it a stir, cover, and simmer for about 25 minutes until grits are tender. Remove from heat and stir in cream and vanilla and allow to cool to room temperature.
Once cooled, divided grits into small bowls or cups, leveling off tops of each slightly so almost smooth.
Meanwhile, in a non-stick pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add sugar and when melted, add banana slices in a single layer and allow to cook for about 30 seconds without touching. Flip slices and cook until slices are caramelized. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Drizzle an even layer of sugar over top of each cooled bowl of grits, tilting bowls slightly to distribute sugar evenly over top. Using a kitchen torch (or you can broil these if using oven-safe dishes), slowly brown tops of each one, caramelizing sugar. Allow them to cool slightly.
To serve, divide caramelized bananas among dishes, top with a pinch of salt (if using) and serve.
Serves 4 (depending on size of dishes).