Mostly when you consider real Italian risotto you think of the Padana; the rice growing region of the Po river valley, Emilia-Romagna and the Veneto. This recipe however, is true to Rome (my Rome), but for some reason at the same time, it reminds me of the “dirty rice” of New Orleans. Not dissimilar. Much of the inspiration comes from the “cucina ebraica” of Rome. That would be from the Jews who had to flee the Spanish Inquisition in Sicily and landed on both sides of the Tiber. They used all of the parts of the chicken including the “rigaglie”, the giblets, and everything else you can think of. This would be straight out Roman Jewish food except that I’ve added pork and unkoshered it. Sorry rabbi, but I do still respect that history, really. Okay, not kosher but you can make it so very easily if you prefer with the omission of the guanciale. Hint: you don’t need to go overboard on mire poix, let the guts sing for they own selves as they would in New Orleans. —pierino
pound chicken gizzards
pound chicken hearts
pound chicken livers (to be cooked separately)
guanciale or pancetta, chopped
rib celery plus leaves , chopped (set the leaves aside)
tomato puree (if I were in Roma I would use passata, which is looser than American puree but you can thin it with a little wine if you like)
Chop the giblets but hold the livers separately. Ditto for the guanciale/pancetta
In a sauté pan heat up olive oil to a shimmer not a smoke. Begin by adding the chopped guanciale and let the fat melt a bit. Add the giblets but not the livers (we’re holding those back). Brown these on a medium low flame while you begin the rice. Season with salt and pepper and toss in the fresh thyme. Add the chopped celery. Wait a minute or two and add the tomato puree and keep that bubbling.
Bring the stock to a steady simmer (not a boil) on a burner close to the one on which you will be cooking your risotto.
Heat up the oil in a large pan, one that will contain the risotto. Add the chopped onions and allow those to color but not brown. Stir in the rice and stir until it begins to become translucent. Add the wine and reduce down. At this point begin ladling in the stock, stirring with each ladleful.
As the rice absorbs the liquids continue to add more stock, ladle by ladle. After about 8 or 10 minutes add the giblets and sauce and continue the process.
Meanwhile in a separate pan melt some butter. This will all make sense in the end. Color the garlic and sauté the chopped livers. Before the rice reaches the perfect al dente point add livers to it and stir. From here on it’s just taste and season. You add the chicken liver at the end because it’s the most delicate component.
The risotto should still be wet and as they say in Venice, “al onda” meaning “ a wave”, not a clump of sticky rice. That’s another show. Garnish with the chopped celery leaves you have reserved.
Note to cooks: in Rome you may see big hunks of celery in plates as opposed to dainty little slices. Make up your own mind. You don’t have to be a food stylist.
Standup commis flâneur, and food historian. Pierino's background is in Italian and Spanish cooking but of late he's focused on frozen desserts. He is now finishing his cookbook, MALAVIDA! Can it get worse? Yes, it can. Visit the Malavida Brass Knuckle cooking page at Facebook and your posts are welcome there.