“Risi e Bisi”: Risotto, Sweet Peas and Crispy Pulled Guanciale
Combine the sugar, salt, peppercorns and thyme in a small bowl. Rub the hog jowls thoroughly with the mixture. Place the jowls in a non-reactive container, cover and refrigerate for 7-10 days. Remove the jowls from the container and tie a piece of butcher’s twine around the middle of each one (the temperature of the room should be anywhere from 45° F to 60° F) Hang the jowls in a dry cool room for at least 30 days. If necessary, hang in the refrigerator. The guanciale should be firm and dry, but not too dry. Preheat oven to 250° F. To make the pulled guanciale, place one whole piece of guanciale flat in a large sauté pan. Cover with tin foil and cook in the oven for 4 hours. Remove the pan from the oven, discard the foil and allow the guanciale to cool. Increase the oven temperature to 350°F. Pull the cooled guanciale meat apart in long thin strands. Cook the strands in the oven for 2 minutes or until crispy and hot.
Bring chicken stock to a boil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Season the stock with salt and pepper to desired taste. Add the snap peas and cook for 6 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons of the mint for the last minute. Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the peas and transfer to the bowl of a food processor. Add ¼ cup of the hot chicken stock. Reserve the remaining chicken stock in the saucepan on a low heat for the risotto. Purée the peas until smooth. Push the purée through a strainer to discard the fibrous casing from the pea pods. Set aside. Melt 2 tablespoons butter with 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large shallow saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, do not color, about 7 minutes. Add the rice and the salt and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook the rice, stirring very gently, until it’s toasted and you can hear the rice crackle. Add the fresh peas and the remaining mint. Deglaze with white wine and cook until it has evaporated, about 30 seconds. Add 6 cups of the warm chicken stock, reduce the heat to low and simmer. While simmering make sure the rice is not sticking by occasionally scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Simmer until most of the broth has been absorbed. (At this point the rice should still be discrete grains and look almost translucent. Taste the rice for seasoning and texture. You’re looking for a texture that is creamy and loose with a bit of a bite. The center of the grain should be smooth, not chalky. If it is chalky, add more stock and cook it longer.) Remove the pan from the heat.
Fold in the Parmigiano Reggiano, the pea puree, the parsley, the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, and 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil. Serve on warm plates with a small bundle of the hot crispy pulled guanciale and fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano on top.