"No one else in Italy cooks rice in so many different ways as the Venetians," Hazan says. "They have at least several dozen basic dishes, not counting individual variations, where rice is combined with every likely vegetable, meat, fowl or fish. Of all of them, the one Venetians have always loved the best has been Risi e Bisi. In the days of the Republic of Venice, Risi e Bisi was the first dish served at the dinner given by the Doges each April 25 in honor of St . Mark. Those, of course, were the earliest, youngest peas of the season, which are the best to use for Risi e Bisi. But one can also make it with later, larger peas, the ones Venetians call senatori. You may use frozen peas, if you must, and this recipe shows you how, but until you've made it with choice, fresh peas, your Risi e Bisi will be a tolerable but slightly blurred copy of the original.
"Risi e Bisi is not risotto with peas. It is a soup, although a very thick one. Some cooks make it thick enough to eat with a fork, but it is at its best when it is fairly runny, with just enough liquid to require a spoon."
RICE AND PEAS (Risi e Bisi)
1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons chopped onion
2 pounds fresh peas (unshelled weight) or 1 (10-ounce) package frozen peas, thawed
3 1/2 cups homemade meat broth for fresh peas, 3 cups for frozen
1 cup rice, preferably Italian arborio
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Melt butter in stockpot over medium heat. Add onion and saute until lightly golden.
Add fresh peas, if using, with 1 teaspoon salt. Saute 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add 3 cups broth. Cover and cook at very moderate boil 10 minutes. Stir in rice, parsley and remaining 1/2 cup broth. Cover and cook at slow boil 15 minutes, or until rice is al dente, tender but firm to bite. Stir occasionally. Adjust salt to taste.
(If using thawed frozen peas, add peas and 1 teaspoon salt and saute 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add 3 cups broth and bring to boil. Add rice and parsley. Stir. Cover and cook at slow boil 15 minutes, or until rice is al dente. Stir occasionally. Adjust salt to taste.)
Just before serving, mix in cheese. Makes 4 servings.
Note: This dish demands flavor and delicacy of homemade broth. If using store-bought broth, use canned chicken broth in following proportions:
For fresh peas, 1 cup broth mixed with 2 1/2 cups water.
For frozen peas, 1 cup broth mixed with 2 cups water.
This may be Hazan's most famous recipe.
PORK LOIN BRAISED IN MILK
(Arrosto di Maiale al Latte)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons oil
2 pounds pork loin in 1 piece, with some fat on it, securely tied
1 teaspoon salt
3 or 4 twists freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 cups milk, about
Heat butter and oil over medium-high heat in casserole large enough to only contain pork. When butter foam subsides, add pork loin, fat-side facing down, and thoroughly brown on all sides, reducing heat if butter starts to turn dark brown.
Add salt and pepper. Slowly add milk. After milk comes to boil, reduce heat to medium. Cover, but not tightly, with lid partly askew, and cook slowly 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until meat is easily pierced by fork. Turn and baste meat occasionally. Add little milk if needed. When meat is done, milk should have coagulated into small nut-brown clusters. If still pale in color, uncover pan, increase heat to high and cook briskly until it darkens.
Remove meat to cutting board and allow to cool slightly few minutes. Remove trussing string. Carve into 3/8-inch-thick slices and arrange on warm platter. Draw off most of fat from pan with spoon and discard, being careful not to discard any coagulated milk clusters. (There may be as much as 1 to 1 1/2 cups removed.) Adjust salt to taste. Add 2 or 3 tablespoons warm water. Increase heat to high and boil away water while scraping and loosening all cooking residue in pan. Spoon sauce over sliced pork and serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.
Both recipes are from Marcella Hazan's "Classic Italian Cooking" (Alfred A. Knopf: 1976, $25).