Of the several less than noteworthy foodstuffs that I’ve been curious to work with, this is just one of them. Identified the pink things yet? We call them creste di gallo, otherwise known as cockscombs, that innocuous part of a chicken that I never imagined as something remotely edible. I’m familiar with chicken feet from the islands (even if I never tried them), but that thing on top of its head? My husband sings praises over le creste for his mother cooked these “delicacies”, if you want to call it that, when he was a child.
The first thing to do after purchasing my prize was to call the family expert on these sort of things: my mother-in-law. “Ci-a-o-o-o TESORO!” she exclaimed. Did she just call me precious? More than delighted to share her cooking wisdom, she advised me to prepare them in umido, a style of braising that uses a small amount of liquid and includes finely chopped onions, carrots, celery, tomato paste, wine, and seasonings. She went on to say that they are usually served as a second plate, but with my meager 200 grams… That’s when the idea of risotto bianco with a ragu topping entered my mind.
It didn’t rock my tastebuds.
Plain risotto and a french-inspired ragu seemed like a grand idea but I expected cockscombs to have a unique and distinct flavor to them. They barely hinted of giblets. Borrowing from the culinary finesse that is Ducasse, I simmered the combs in chicken broth and nervetti (calf’s foot aspic) until tender, then finished them briefly in the style of mamma with some finely chopped vegetables and herbs. To the risotto bianco I added mascarpone instead of heavy cream at the end. The finishing touch was a drizzle of truffle oil over all. My husband actually liked the results but for me, well, knowing what and where it came from did little to convince my tastebuds.