Carolina Gold Rice Middlins

This side dish can truly shine on any table.

Carolina Gold Rice Middlins
Photo: Peter Frank Edwards; Prop Styling and Floral Design: Sara York Grimshaw
Cook Time:
10 mins
Active Time:
10 mins
Soak Time:
30 mins
Stand Time:
10 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs

Chef Mike Lata shares his secret to hosting a stress-free Christmas Eve dinner: Plenty of planning. "We don't just dream up these meals," he says. "We give a lot of thought to organizing, because who wants to be in the weeds at home?" Owner and culinary force behind FIG and The Ordinary restaurants in Charleston, South Carolina, Mike Lata and his wife Jenni Ridall have designed their Christmas menu with preparedness at the forefront. From Lowcountry Fish Stew to Oven-Roasted Oysters with Mushrooms and Watercress, their smart, seasonal menu is designed with plenty of do-ahead components.

Carolina Gold Rice gets its name from its golden hues in the field right before harvest. Made with high-quality rice, this is an extremely simple dish—you really can't mess it up. Each grain of rice holds its integrity, with a slight chewy consistency. Lata tops these Carolina Gold Rice Middlins with toasted benne seeds. Enslaved Africans first brought benne to the Carolinas in the 18th century, where it was cultivated in their gardens and eventually introduced to the region's rice culture. "Unlike modern sesame seeds, heirloom benne seeds have a rich, wonderful profile that's worth seeking out from Southern purveyors of organic heirloom grains like Anson Mills," Lata says. "At the restaurants, we lightly toast them in the oven at 300°F until they turn deep golden and take on a nice, earthy bitterness. I think they have a truffle-esque nuance."


  • 2 cups Carolina Gold rice grits or middlins 

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste

  • 1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter

  • Toasted benne seeds

  • Thinly sliced scallions


  1. Place rice in a large bowl, and fill bowl with cold water. Stir thoroughly or massage rice with your hands, and drain. Repeat this procedure 3 or 4 times until water is crystal clear. Cover rice with fresh cold water, and soak 30 minutes; drain.

  2. Meanwhile, add 2 cups water, bay leaves, and kosher salt to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high. Add soaked rice to boiling water, and stir well. Return to a boil, and stir again. Reduce heat to low, and stir one more time. Cover and simmer, undisturbed, until all liquid is absorbed, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat, and let stand, covered, 7 minutes. Add butter, and fluff rice with a fork until butter is melted. Discard bay leaves. Season with additional salt to taste.

  3. Transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish rice with toasted benne seeds and thinly sliced scallions.

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