Risi e Bisi (rice and peas) is a classic springtime dish from the Veneto region of Italy, made with young green peas. This recipe, by guest food blogger chef Cole Ellis of the Cotton House Hotel in Cleveland, is a Southern take on the traditional recipe and features fresh field peas and Mississippi rice middlins. Serve in bowls with the “bisi” spooned over the “risi” and garnished with fresh dill sprigs.
Recipe by Cole Ellis Photograph provided by the Cotton House
2 cups Two Brooks Farm rice middlins (rice grits)
1 cup dry white wine
½ a white onion, small diced
8 ounces shredded Parmesan (Sartori SarVecchio preferred)
2 gallons chicken broth or stock
One 4-ounce piece of Parmesan rind
Salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons butter
Pinch of ground Aleppo pepper
In an 8-quart stock pot add broth and Parmesan rind, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.
While the rind and the stock steep, heat an 8-quart Dutch oven over medium heat and add enough oil to cover the bottom. Add the onion and a pinch of salt, and sweat until translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add the rice and stir constantly, to keep grains coated well with oil. When the rice is toasted, add the wine and a pinch of salt and cook until the wine is absorbed.
Reduce heat to medium. Add the Parmesan chicken broth ¾ cup at a time, stirring constantly, until the rice becomes tender, about 25-30 minutes.
Add the Parmesan and black pepper to taste. Finish with the butter.
2 celery ribs
2 medium size carrots
1 whole white onion, peeled
2 garlic cloves
1 ham hock or 1 pound rendered pancetta
½ gallon water
2 bay leaves
4 thyme sprigs
Juice of 2 lemons
Skewer the vegetables and cook directly over the flame of a gas grill, covering the vegetables with a hearty black char.
Add them to an 8-quart pot along with the remaining ingredients.
Bring to a boil, reduce to a medium boil and cook until reduced by half (about 2 hours). Strain and reserve liquid for cooking peas.
3 cups of fresh-shelled field peas
1 carrot, diced
1 celery rib, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup canned diced tomato
¼ cup olive oil
Zest of 1 lemon or rind of one preserved lemon, small diced
Over medium heat, saute carrot, celery and onion in the olive oil until translucent, then add garlic, tomato and peas, and cook for about 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
When the tomato begins to break down, add enough pea likker to just cover the peas and the lemon zest.
Simmer on low heat until the peas are tender, about 20 minutes.
Cole Ellis, a Culinary Institute of Charleston graduate, returned to his hometown of Cleveland in 2013 to open Delta Meat Market, a butcher shop and boutique grocery for fine Southern foods, now a full-service restaurant located in the Cotton House Hotel. In 2019, Ellis opened Bar Fontaine, an upscale, European-style bar serving craft cocktails, small plates and house-made pastas. Ellis was a James Beard Award semifinalist in 2017 for “Best Chef: South,” and in February, he cooked a “Southern Meets Italian” dinner at the prestigious James Beard House in New York.