Risotto della Famiglia di Bartolini
This is it! The twice-delayed, much-anticipated, and another of the Bartolini Crown Jewels, my family’s risotto recipe. Though it’s been a long time coming, I think you’ll find it appealing, even if it is unlike most that you may know. You see, the Bartolini risotto is missing a couple of the dish’s standard ingredients and includes one that most do not — but we’ll discuss that in a bit.
Our risotto had quite a reputation among the branches of my family that did not reside in the two-flat. When our relatives from Cincinnati, at the time the southernmost members of the Clan, came for a visit, they had a standing request that this risotto be served as part of their welcoming dinner. I remember Mom making it for Dad’s Mother during her visits with us and risotto was often served when either of the two-flat’s families entertained. What made the Bartolini risotto so special? Chicken gizzards, an ingredient that was lacking from almost all other risotto recipes. If you liked gizzards, you loved this risotto. Of course, if you didn’t, well, you’d probably go hungry that night. The latter point being responsible for the greatest cover-up in the long and storied history of the Bartolini.
As popular as this dish was with the adults seated at the table, there was one member of the family, my sibling, who would have none of it. The child — henceforth referred to as “It” to protect “Its” identity — refused to eat them. Mom, in an effort to get the child to at least eat the risotto, told the child that they were “dried mushrooms” and “It” should put them aside and eat the rice. Knowing that the child balked at eating dried mushrooms, there’s no way so much as a grain of rice would have been eaten if “It” knew there were gizzards on that platter. Out of earshot of the child, Mom then turned to me and my other sibling, commanding we keep quiet about this, “Or else!”
Now, there’s nothing so unusual about what Mom did. After all, Mothers since the dawn of time have cajoled, bribed, and, yes, lied to their children, all in the name of good nutrition. (How many broccoli crowns have been hidden in meatloaf throughout the millennia?) No, the truly surprising thing about this tale is how long the ruse lasted.
We had all gathered at my Parent’s home for a family dinner, an event that had become more and more rare. When “It” noticed that Mom was preparing risotto, “It” asked Mom if dried mushrooms were to be included. Hearing that, I started to laugh and, much to Mom’s dismay, the cover-up was exposed. The astonishing fact is that the child was now in “Its” 30s! That’s right: 30’s! One “Or else!” from Mom and my sibling and I kept quiet for 3 decades. Kids today have it easy.
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Our risotto is a bit more complicated than most. The gizzards, after all, must be cooked first. To do this, they are sautéed before being used to create a stock. As you’ll see in the recipe below, both the gizzards and the stock are then used to create the risotto. You’ll also note that 2 cups of Arborio rice are used. This will make a rather large platter of risotto. You may wish to reduce the amounts.
- 1 lb (455 g) chicken gizzards & hearts (see Notes)
- 1 celery stalk
- 1 carrot
- 1 medium onion
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cups arborio rice
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 small – medium onion, diced fine
- 10 button or cremini mushrooms, chopped (see Notes)
- 7 to 8 cups stock (see Notes)
- salt & pepper, to taste
- Pecorino Romano cheese
- Add the butter and olive oil to a saucepan over medium heat. Add the cleaned chicken gizzards to the pot and sauté for about 10 minutes. The object is to give them a bit of color, not fry them till fully cooked.
- Turn the heat to high before adding the onion, celery, carrot, and 2 quarts of water.
- Bring to a boil and reduce to a soft simmer. Continue to simmer for 90 minutes, removing any foam that may rise to the top.
- After 90 minutes, strain and reserve the stock. Remove the gizzards and set aside to cool. Remove the vegetables and discard.
- Once cooled to touch, chop the gizzards to your preference.
- In a large sauce pan or deep frying pan, melt the butter over med-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the mushrooms and sauté for a few minutes until some color is achieved.
- Add the gizzards and sauté until heated through. The onion should be translucent by this time. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the rice and sauté for another 5 minutes or so to toast it. The grains should be partially opaque.
- Reduce the heat to medium, add a ladle or 2 of hot stock, and stir the rice. Though you needn’t stir it constantly, you shouldn’t leave it for more than a couple of minutes.
- When the stock is all but gone, add another ladle of stock and stir. Repeat this process again and again until the rice is just about cooked. This should take about 20 minutes and the risotto should not be gummy but very moist, though not so much as to be a soup.
- Taste and add salt & pepper, as needed.
- Turn off the heat, add a final ladle or 2 of stock, cover the pan, and let the risotto rest for 5 minutes.
- Add a handful or 2 of grated Pecorino Romano cheese, stir to combine, and place on the serving platter.
- Garnish with more grated cheese and serve.
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In many versions of risotto, white wine and saffron are added to the rice, although neither are used in my family’s risotto recipe. At a later date, I will post a recipe for Risotto alla Milanese, in which both ingredients are required.
In my area, chicken gizzards are sold in 1 lb packages. Before cooking, they must be rinsed and trimmed of any fatty and/or dark parts. Try to keep the fleshy parts as intact as possible. These will be chopped once cooked.
If you’re trying to “disguise” the gizzards, it’s best to chop the mushrooms in about the same size as the chopped gizzards, keeping in mind that the mushrooms will shrink when cooked.
The standard ratio of rice to stock when making risotto is about 1 to 3½, meaning for every cup of rice you’ll need 3½ cups of stock. It never hurts to have extra stock on hand just in case more is needed to cook the risotto.
The stock created with the chicken gizzards is relatively simple, with the few ingredients left in large pieces. This makes it far easier to retrieve the gizzards once cooked.
When ready to start cooking your risotto, combine the stock made when cooking the gizzards with enough homemade chicken stock to give you the amount required in the recipe. Of course, store-bought, low-sodium, chicken stock may be substituted.
Keep the stock hot but not boiling. If kept boiling, much of it will immediately evaporate upon hitting the hot risotto pan without having a chance to be absorbed by the rice.
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It’s déjà vu all over again … It’s that time of the year again. In this part of the country, every grocery, market, and vegetable stand features at least one bin filled to over-flowing with ears of fresh corn. If you’re at all like me you just cannot get enough of the stuff. That’s all well and good for now, but what are you going to do come Fall when today’s surplus is but a memory? Well, with today’s blast from the past, you’ll be laughing all the way to the pantry. Zia’s Corn Relish is a great way to preserve today’s corn for tomorrow’s meals. It’s a simple recipe and you can find it by clicking HERE.
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Coming soon to a monitor near you …
Ravioli made with Ramps and Dressed with Morel Mushroom Sauce
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