Project Weeknight: Riso alla Pitoca (rice with chicken)

I never watch Lidia's Italy on PBS but I just happened to catch an episode this weekend. She was doing rice dishes with risotto-type rice (arborio or whatever) that didn't require the traditional risotto cooking technique. The last dish she showed was 'a traditional chicken and rice'. It looked so simple yet so amazing. It made me salivate.

So I did what I always do: I headed to the intertubes to find the recipe. Oh, imagine my frustration when I discovered that not only was it not to be found, but it didn't even seem to be listed in the table of contents of the companion book to the series!

Luckily the episode aired again later that day and I managed to record it. I pored over it, trying to recreate the recipe. The big sticking point was how much rice and stock she used. She didn't say and I haven't made enough risotto to know.

Well, now it became a point of honor. I would figure out that recipe! It took several more intertube searches and a lot of guessing, but I made my interpretation of it last night and it was fab-ulous.

It could be considered flexitarian because I used so little meat but it's neither whole grain nor high in vegetables. Oh, and it's fairly butter-intensive. I figure it's a once-in-a-while treat.
Riso alla Pitoca (Pitocca?) (Beggar's Rice)
(adapted from Lidia's Italy TV show, ep. Notto Risotto)

Serves 3

1/2 lrg or 1 small onion, roughly chopped
1-2 carrots, peeled & roughly chopped
1-2 stalks celery, cleaned & roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled
Aim for approximately equal amounts of onion, carrots, and celery. Toss all in food processor and chop until fine but not completely pulverized.

Main Ingredients
2 Tblsp butter
2 chicken thighs, boned and cubed (See note)
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups chicken stock, hot
1.5 cups rice (arborio, other short grain?)

To Finish
2 Tblsp butter, room temp.
grated parmesan cheese to taste
chopped parsley
salt & pepper to taste (See note)

Heat 2 Tblsp butter (or swap out some for olive oil) in a heavy-bottomed pot. The heavy bottom is important as it will keep the rice from scorching during cooking.
Add pestata, (salt,) cook for a few minutes.
Move vegs to side, add chicken, (salt,) cook until starts to brown.
Add bay leaf, wine, bring to boil, simmer until alcohol smell is gone.
Add 3.5 cups of the hot stock, bring to boil, add rice, (salt.)
Cover, reduce heat, simmer for 15 minutes. If you're worried about scorching, stir every 5 minutes or so. Check rice for doneness after 15 minutes. Cook 5-10 minutes more if needed.

When rice is just done:
- If it's too wet, remove lid and simmer until it reaches desired consistency.
- If it's too dry, add some of the reserved hot stock. It will continue to thicken as it sits after adding the cheese and butter.

Remove from heat and add 2 T butter, stir in vigorously. Lidia called this step 'mantecare'
Add parmesan cheese, chopped parsley, stir.

Serve immediately, as this does not improve over time.

For 4 servings, use 2 cups rice, an extra bit of wine, and 5+ cups hot stock, reserving 1/2 cup for adjustments at the end.

I used only maybe 4-6 ounces of meat, max. You could use up to 1 pound, depending on how meaty you want it.

I salted as I added each step to the pot and didn't need to add any salt at the end.

As for Project Weeknight status, it ended up on the table half an hour late. Mostly it was because I decided to use chicken thighs from a whole chicken I had broken down for stock, and getting rid of all the little gross tendony bits was a huge time sink. Next time I'll just buy boned skinned thighs. Otherwise I think I could have had it on the table in 45 minutes.

As for acceptability, both my guys loved it, which is always good. There were two other recipes in the episode, rice with sage (riso alla salvia) and rice with squash (risotto di zucca). Yes, they're on my list.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow! I saw this episode today and was interested in the same dish and wanted to make it. I missed part of the show where she did some other rice dishes before the beggar's rice, the name of which I also missed, was shown and didn't get the proportions. Also, I would have forgotten to add the garlic in the initial mirepoix like mixture.

Thank you.