Iota (also Jota) is always a delight to eat and to talk about with friends, many of them surprised to discover that it is a regional and traditional Italian dish from Trieste, a town in the region of Fruili Venezia Giulia and north of Venice.
The fat content in Iota can be high, but there are ways to make Iota less fatty.
Borlotti beans, soaked overnight and then cooked.
Pork Hock, placed in cold water and simmered until soft and used to make broth. Add potatoes about 30 minutes before the end of cooking. Remove the lean meat and use this for when you assemble the ingredients together. Skim the fat off the pork hock broth.
Use the broth to cook the sauerkraut . When the sauerkraut is cooked, add half the borlotti beans and potatoes. Use a potato masher to mash the contents.
Assemble the Iota by combining all of the different components.
Add the whole beans and the rest of the potatoes (cubed) with the mashed ingredients. Add the pork hock meat and the Wedding Sausage (I prefer to use this type of sausage because it is lean meat).
And there you have it – a lean Iota.
There are other posts for making Iota and these include quantities of ingredients:
IOTA (Recipe, a very thick soup from Trieste) Post 1
IOTA FROM TRIESTE, Italy, made with smoked pork, sauerkraut, borlotti beans – Post 2
In Trieste my zia Renata used to make what she called Gallina Imbriaga (in dialect of Trieste- braised chicken in red wine), but as a child I thought that she called it by this name to make me laugh, and it did. I thought that the concept of a drunk chicken was hilarious.
Recently I decided to investigate the origins of this recipe and it seems that Friulani (from the region of Friuli Venezia Guilia, in a northeastern region of Italy) and i Triestini (who are part of this region) claim it as their own, but so do those from Padova (in the neighbouring Veneto region) and those from Central Italy particularly those in Umbria and Tuscany.
The recipe in each of these regions, whether it is a pollo ubriaco (drunk) and pollo in Italian being the generic word for gallina (hen) or a galletto (young cock or rooster) seem to be cooked in a very similar way with the same ingredients – chicken cut into pieces, red wine and the following vegetables – carrot, celery, onion, garlic and parsley – all common ingredients for an Italian braise. Some marinate the chicken pieces beforehand, and as expected the wine needs to be from their region, i.e. if it is a Tuscan recipe the wine must be a Sangiovese or Chianti and if from Umbria, the choice of wine must be an Orvieto or Montefalco.
One recipe from Friuli browns the chicken in butter and oil and also add brandy as well – drunken indeed if not paralytic.
Other variations are in the type of mushrooms: fresh or dry porcini or cultivated mushrooms. Rosemary is the herb most favoured and parsley; some use sage and/ or thyme. The recipe is beginning to sound more and more like Coq Au Vin. So which came first… is it the French or the Italians ?
But I also found a recipe called Gadduzzu ‘Mbriacu (rooster) in Giuseppe Coria’s Profumi di Sicilia, and what I like about this recipe is listed as a variation – it is the addition of a couple of amaretti (almond biscuits) at the very end to flavour and thicken the sauce. Now that is a great addition!!
Coria suggests 1 onion, 1 carrot, heart of celery, 100g of porcini …. I added greater amounts of vegetables and used chicken legs (called coscie di pollo in Italian). Corai does not suggest using Nero D’Avola but this would be the preferred Sicilian wine to use.
1 chicken, cut into 6 or 8 pieces
200 g. mushrooms.
2 onions, sliced finely
2 carrots, diced
3-4 sticks from the centre of the celery, sliced thinly
½ litre of red wine
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Dry the chicken pieces with kitchen paper and brown them in the oil evenly. Remove them and set aside.
Sauté the onion, carrot and celery until golden in the same pan and oil .
Add the chicken, herbs, seasoning and the red wine, cover and simmer for about 20 mins.
Add mushrooms and cook everything some more till all is cooked (30-40 mins altogether).
Break up the amaretti into crumbs and add it to the sauce before serving.