a brown bowl with a single portion of a cheese risotto, next to a small cup of red wine

Riso Alla Italiana

Piglia una pignata he mettice brodo grasso he magro he fa bulliare; he poi piglia lo riso bene nettato he piu volte lavato cum aqua tepida, he metello dentro he fa bulire menando cum lo cughiaro alcuna volta che non se apichi alla pignata, poi, quando serra cotto, piglia ove he caso gratato, sbatuto ogni cosa insieme, cum uno pocho di pipere; poi fa le scutelle

 Rice the Italian Way

 Put fat broth and lean in a pot, boil it

Get clean rice, rinse it well in tepid water

Put the rice in, and boil it. Stir so it does not stick.
When it is cooked, add eggs and grated cheese, beat it all together, add pepper, and serve in bowls.

(there may be spelling and transcription errors, my computer is having unrest related to the spellings included)

 

neapolitan-rice-italian-6

Medieval style cooking makes a whole lot of broth. Poaching most meats, and separately, a lot of veg, makes a lot of liquor, broth, stock, and aspic. It also consumes a lot of broth. Fat broth, lean broth, lenten broth, almond milk made in broth, it does get used.

It’s kind of an enriched risotto. I chose a medium grain rice, as I find short grain rice generally wants more tending than just a “couple of turns of the spoon” to keep it from locking up. The starches behave quite differently between the two types of rice. If you have the time and attention to give a short grain rice, please do try it. It can’t easily go wrong.

The note to rinse the rice was a happy one. Some modern rices are packaged to be starchy, others are chalky. Rinsing clears the grains of dust, and starts it plumping. It also gives me a few moments to more easily find any stones or not-food that may have found its way into the bag. I am always happier to do so.

neapolitan-rice-italian-13neapolitan-rice-italian-15neapolitan-rice-italian-17

My broth was some fat beef broth that resulted from a recent dish, and some chicken broth which was in the freezer. I left the fat on the beef broth, specifically because it called for “fat.” This dish relies on tasty broth. While I used meat broths, a quality vegetable broth would go very well here. I would strongly suggest adding some (maybe 2 Tbs) butter or oil in that case, as the rice benefits from a bit of oil for texture. I also have had excellent luck with a specific vegan bouillon cube, Rapunzel. (not saying other brands are bad, just that this one, I find to be good.)

After cooking the rice fully, I took it off the heat, as my dinner got delayed an hour. When my dinner companion arrived, I beat the egg and cheese together well, then folded them into the rice, and stirred while reheating. Then I got clever and put it in a low oven. This worked perfectly well, and the resulting dish was lush, rich without being over the top. In fact, I was glad to let the rice cool before adding the egg, as it did not clump or scramble in the dish.

 

If you are cooking for immunocompromised people, it may be wise to use pasteurised eggs. The eggs are cooked but cannot be checked for done-ness.

The salt in the cheese was sufficient for our preferences, we added none during cooking or at the table.
This dish is far less fiddly than risotto, and can be made from simple cooked rice into the enriched dish reasonably easily, but it is a small-batch dish, as the seasonings are unlikely to scale up well. It’s classic comfort food.

 

For two as a main, four as a side;

1 ½ cups medium grain rice

2 ½ cups broth, strained

2-3 TBS fat from broth, or mild fat such as chicken or unsalted butter

3 eggs

5 oz parmesan, asiago, or other hard Italian type “storing” cheese, grated or shredded (it will melt)

not from the can, just plain cheese.

¼ up to 1 tsp ground black pepper, to taste

no salt

Using a stockpot that is easy to fully scrape, warm the broth and fat.

Rinse the rice in water til it runs clear. I do this in a bowl with the rice in a strainer, and pick over the rice for purity as I go.

Cook the rice til it is perfect, to your taste. Be prepared to add more liquid, as rice is thirsty and somewhat unpredictable, about 20-25 minutes.

Beat the eggs, then add the cheese and pepper to the egg mixture. Beat well together, til almost fluffy.

Fold the egg mixture into the rice and beat thoroughly together. If you are concerned about the eggs scrambling, remove from heat and allow to cool briefly.

Heat gently til cheese is fully melted. The egg won’t be visible to see that they are cooked.

Taste for salt and pepper, adjust, and serve. It’s lovely with a dense piece of grilled fish, or alongside a seasonal salad.

Curye on Inglisch 38

I don’t like rice.

I’ll eat it, but I won’t go out of my way for it. It just isn’t my thing.

One of the recipes that seems to find its way into more cookbooks than any other is blancmange. Rice. This does not  inspire excitement.

However, it’s as  economical as it is pervasive, using broth, almonds, rice, and leftover chicken picked off of the bones, or when made especially for a particular diner, only a little of the breast of a capon.

As much as I don’t love rice, it would be disingenious to avoid making this dish.

I had lots of reference sources available. Some call for verjus, others for pikefish, and a large variety of spices.

I used this iteration from Curye on Inglisch.

38 Blank maunger. Take capouns and seeth them, thenne take hem vp; take almaundes blaunched, grynd hem &alay hem vp with the same broth. Cast the mylk in a pot. Waisshe rys and do thereto, and lat it seeth; thane take the brawn of the capouns, teese it small and do therto. Take white grece, sugur and salt, and cast therinne. Lat it seeth; thenne messe it forth and florissh ot with aneys in confyt, red other whyt, and with almaundes fryed in oyle, and serue it forth. (p106)

 

  • Take capons and seethe them-poach a chicken and make some broth.
  • Make almond milk using that broth.
  • Simmer rice in the chicken-almond milk
  • Add shredded chicken. Specifically “teased”, not diced.
  • Add “white grece”
  • sugar and salt, and let it seethe.
  • Serve with a garnish of anise comfits and toasted almonds.

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 16 ounces raw almonds, soaked overnight, peeled.
  • 1 quart of chicken broth, warmed
  • ¼ c chicken fat from the broth
  • 1 cup cooked chicken, shredded
  • 1 cup rice, soaked
  • ½ TBS salt
  • 1 TBS sugar

the assembled ingredients for the dish; chicken broth, peeled almonds, rice, chicken, sugar, salt

GEAR

basin to soak almonds

processor for almond milk

strainer for almond milk

pot to cook in (or rice cooker)

spatula

HOW TO

Set aside a dozen almonds for garnish.

Place the rest of the almonds in a processor or blender. Whiz til they are meal.

Add chicken broth, whiz to commingle well.

Strain and press solids,  set them aside for a future dish.

 

a food processor with almond milk being made with chicken stock.

There is not enough sp`the almond milk is no longer liquid, and risks burningace in this processor for the almond milk to be properly made, it must be transferred to a larger vessel to be completed.

  • Start by putting a couple of teaspoons of chicken fat into the cooking pot, and toast the almonds. Set them aside. Don’t wipe out the pot.
  • Place rice in the same pot, add almond milk. Watch the pot closely, as almond milk does not behave quite like water, and will cook out at a different rate. If your almond milk is depleted before your rice is done, supplement with broth, or if you are out of that as well, use water.
  • When the rice is done (or if you are clever, when the rice cooker dings) fold in the chicken and spices, and add chicken fat a tablespoon at a time until you are pleased with the mouthfeel and texture. Don’t skip the chicken fat step.
  • Place in a bowl or on a plate, garnish with toasted almonds, and serve. If you wish to use anise comfits, decorate with them as well.

NOTES

Every time I make a chicken, I save the bones to make broth.  I put the prior broth in a pot, warm it up, and add the bones. It gets richer, denser, and more flavorful every time. This dish would have been pretty insipid without the intensity of the broth, as it was the primary source of flavor.

I have read a lot of conflicting opinions on what rice was most likely used historically. I chose to use Arborio which I had on hand.

Skinning a pound of almonds took two hours. It’s fussy.

I put the almond and chicken mixture into a pot to warm together, because the processor could not hold enough liquid to make the almond milk. It worked out pretty well, as straining the almond milk is potentially messy.

I added my salt and sugar directly to the chicken meat in order to ensure the seasonings being evenly distributed. There’s more of a risk of over or under seasoning using this method.

The pot I used is not the best one for a dish like this. The squared off bottom corners invited sticking and burning, so I wound up stirring constantly. This worked out in my favor, as it wound up being accidental risotto.

Honestly, it was a good dish. I did not enjoy it, but only because I am still not partial to rice.
I was asked to serve it again, and I will. If haste is an issue, I may use both commercial almond milk and strong broth to create the depth of flavor, which would make this a 30 minute dish. It was a success.

If you wish to explore the very wide world of Medieval blancmanges, check out this link to the Medieval Cookery site; it’s a list of several. You are certain to find a type there that will work for you.

http://www.medievalcookery.com/search/display.html?fourm:36

 

Hieatt, C. B. (1985). Curye on Inglysch: English culinary manuscripts of the fourteenth century, including the “Forme of cury. London ; New York ; Toronto: Oxford university press

 

Robin, Vogelzang. The Book of Sent Sovi: Medieval recipes from Catalonia. Tamesis Books, 2008. 191. Print.

 

a poached chicken breast and white pottage in a brown bowl.

finally, my brown bowls look good!

For the next several months, I will be focusing on Sent Sovi, not only because I like it, but because I am working on a group project which it complements reasonably well.

Being that one of the most mentioned dishes across times and places historically was Blancmange, “white food,” I decided to bite the bullet and make this well known sick-person’s dish. It’s long been a shorthand for us that “white food” is food lacking in flavor or depth. While this is a very mild dish, it is not bland.

The translation of Sent Sovi I have has an appendix with supplementary recipes, one of which is Menjar Blanc, “White Dish.” The appendix is listed as “Missing recipes from the Sent Sovi tradition included in the Llibre d’aparellar de menjar.”

It is a fairly long set of explanations for the dish and a variant. The first version looked like fun to start with, and turned out a surprisingly pleasant dish.

We were both surprised by how much we liked this dish. It was more than a mere porridge, about the texture of fresh made polenta.

 

It was not sweet, nor was it salty, it was very very chickeny. We ate all of the chicken, saved the extra pottage, and agreed to add more chicken to it for lunch the next day.

stirring the hot pot so no lumps result

boiling newtonian fluid.

Recipe: Menjar Blanc

Summary: a White Dish

Ingredients

  • 3-4 chicken breasts (one per person, usually)
  • 1 cup soaked, skinned almonds
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4-1/2 c rice flour
  • 1 TBS sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 oven-worthy pot with a good lid

Instructions

  1. Set the oven to 350*
  2. Flatten the chicken breasts gently, try not to break them.
  3. a chicken breast sandwiched between two paper towels, on a cutting board, with a flattening mallet coming down to flatten them.

    using layers of cloth or paper cuts down on cleanup considerably, and also protects against tearing the meat.

  4. Blender the almonds with the broth, pour all of the result into the pot.
  5. Add the chicken to the pot.
  6. Simmer gently.
  7. When the bubbles begin to rise, make a slurry of one cup almond broth taken from the pot and the rice flour,
  8. add the slurry back to the pot.
  9. Raise the heat until a proper boil starts, then put the lid on and place the dish in the oven.
  10. About 15 minutes in, add sugar and salt, stir the contents, move the pieces of chicken about.
  11. Every ten minutes or so, stir. The dish will thicken when the rice flour is fully cooked, which is reasonably in tune with the chicken’s timing.
  12. Remove the lid for the last 10 minutes, or turn on the broiler, and allow the surface and edges to brown. The instructions are adamant about the browning being essential to the quality of the flavor.
  13. Serve.

Ratings

+uses broth from poaching prior chicken

+ skinless, boneless breasts are perfect.

+ mild, but fulfilling, easy to balance with other dishes.

+ can bake other things in the oven at the same time (350* is a standard baking temp)

– almond milk is time consuming to make, slipping the skins takes forever.

– needs both stove and oven time (unless I work out a shortcut)

– needs stirring and attention, particularly for browning at the end

Preparation time:

Cooking time:

Number of servings (yield): 3

My rating 4 stars:  ★★★★☆ 1 review(s)