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Chicken Risotto (Risotto alla sbirraglia)

by Elizabeth David from At Elizabeth David’s Table

A classic chicken risotto recipe from Elizabeth David. A rich and comforting idea for a main meal, the dish also features ham, mixed peppers and mushrooms.


Most recipes for chicken risotto require a chicken stock made from the bones of the bird, but in this case the liquid from the previously stewed pieces of chicken supplies sufficient richness, so that it is really preferable to use water and reserve the carcass and bones of the chicken for a soup.

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Half a chicken
2 small onions
butter or oil
A slice of ham or Bologna sausage
3 or 4 tomatoes
A piece of celery, sliced
A clove of garlic, sliced
1 green or red pepper,cleaned and cut into strips
A few dried mushrooms
A glass of white wine
seasoning and herbs
risotto rice
Parmesan cheese


Remove the skin, take all the flesh off the bones, and cut into fairly large, long slices. In a thick pan sauté a sliced onion in butter or oil, and when it is golden add the pieces of chicken, the ham, and the other vegetables. Let them fry for a few minutes, then pour in the wine, leaving it to bubble for 3 or 4 minutes. Add seasoning and fresh herbs (marjoram, thyme or basil). Add hot water barely to cover the contents of the pan, put on the lid, and cook very slowly for about ¾ of an hour, preferably in the oven. (This preparation can be made beforehand and heated when the time comes to make the risotto.)

For the risotto allow 2 good teacups of rice for four people. In a large, shallow and heavy pan heat 30g/loz of butter or olive oil, and in it melt the second onion, sliced very finely; add the rice and stir, allowing it to soak up the butter. Now add boiling water to cover the rice, stir again, and when the water is absorbed add more, cooking all the time over a moderate flame, and stirring frequently so that the rice does not stick. Season with a little salt. When you see that the rice is all but cooked pour in the chicken mixture, sauce and all, and continue stirring until the liquid is absorbed and the rice tender. At this moment stir in 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan and 30g/loz of butter. The risotto can be served in the pan in which it has cooked, or it can be turned out on to a hot dish.


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