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Cotechino


jg488
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I find it hard to imagine just slicing and eating the cotechino with which I'm familiar. Used to be able to get zampone in Soho in London, but so many of the old Italian delis have gone :sad: . I remember buying it from Fratelli Camisa, a few doors down from the legendary Pigalle. I believe they closed their doors. Gabby at I. Camisa on Old Compton Street might be able to source it.

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Any cotechino I've ever come across is raw. I would simmer it longer than an hour; it gets creamier (from the pork rind melting) the longer it simmers. Up to three hours, really. I've done both and the longer simmer really makes a difference. As to the lentils, they should only take a half-hour or so to cook. Chop a little onion and garlic, saute in olive oil, add a cup or so of lentils, double that of cooking water. Enjoy. Cotechino is so good; I've never seen a zampone. Someday...

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Cotechino and Zampone di Modena date to the early 16th century as indicated in the writings of Marco Cesare Nannini, a doctor and physician who reported that Zampone and Cotechino di Modena first appeared in the town of Mirandola. In 1511, the troops of Pope Julius II laid siege to Mirandola and the townspeople, forced to rely on their wits to survive, began to encase pork in pigskin, creating what is now known as Cotechino. Later, hog forelegs and trotters also began to be used and so Zampone joined the zone's culinary heritage. Modena was already noted in the Renaissance for its yellow sausages. Toward the end of the 18th century, however, Zampone and Cotechino began to supplant that type of sausage. In the popular imagination, Zampone and Cotechino di Modena became closely identified with the city's gastronomic tradition. The spread of Cotechino and Zampone di Modena to outlying markets was accelerated when two workshops, Frigeri and Bellentani, became the first to adopt a semi-industrial manufacturing process. They acted in response to the transformation of local agriculture from a craft to an industrial system due to intensive livestock breeding. This process of modernization contributed substantially to the diffusion of the two products. As the comments of the Rome food writer Vincenzo Agnoletti and many others indicate, both products had achieved outstanding success on a large scale by 1800. The technical skills of the workers in the industry, which they have traditionally passed down from one generation to the next, are fundamental to the excellence of the two products. Their distinctive qualities reflect important human as well as environmental factors. Zampone and Cotechino di Modena are cured meat products made from a blend of pork obtained from striated muscle fibers, pork fat, pigskin and various seasonings. They must be easy to slice. The interiors of both products are mottled pinkish-red to red in color. The meat mixture must be close-textured with a uniform particle size. Zampone di Modena must also be covered by a natural casing made from the skin of the animal's shank and tied at the top. The zones in which the two products are made consist of the entire territories of the provinces of Modena, Ferrara, Ravenna, Rimini, Forlì, Bologna, Reggio Emilia, Parma, Piacenza, Cremona, Lodi, Pavia, Milan, Varese, Como, Lecco, Bergamo, Brescia, Mantua, Verona and Rovigo.
from ItalianMade.com

As I mentioned before cotechino and zampone are prepared from cured meat. They are not raw. The cooking process only intregrates the flavors through warming just befoe serving and as Wilfrid mentions creates a great cooking broth for your lentils. They just taste better warm. You heat them under low heat so the shape is mantained so it takes longer - 45 minutes or so - to heat through.

Edited by Craig Camp (log)
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Lynne Rossetto Kasper in The Splendid Table says that both cotechino and zampone are lightly cured. On cotechino, she says, "Even though cotechnio cures for several days, it is still a fresh sausage and is always cooked before serving."

Faicco's cotechino has always tasted less cured to me than cotechinos made by other butchers.

Edited by Toby (log)
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As I mentioned before cotechino and zampone are prepared from cured meat. They are not raw. The cooking process only  intregrates the flavors through warming just befoe serving and as Wilfrid mentions creates a great cooking broth for your lentils. They just taste better warm. You heat them under low heat so the shape is mantained so it takes longer - 45 minutes or so - to heat through.

Cotechino is basically a boiling sausage. It contains saltpetre (hence the pinkness of the meat when cut). This is the "cured" bit.

At least in the parts of Northern Italy (Chianti/Florence/Siena mostly) where I have stayed the normal everyday sausages contain saltpetre, so they are 'cured' (again the meat cooks pink), but they are still 'raw/un-cooked' you can either cook them like regular British type sausages or you can hang them up to dry out and eat them raw like salami, which is what they now are. Some of my relatives like to get the 'raw', un-dried out sausage and spread it on bread like pate. It tastes fine, but parasites do worry me. Cotechino and Zampone are much the same.

The cotechini that I have eaten are not only wrapped in pigs skin (or more commonly pig gut) but contains pieces of cut up pig skin. It is the slow cooking of the sausage that allows the collagen in the pigskin to breakdown to gelatin. The gelatin gives the dausage its 'mouthfeel'.

Fourty-five minutes is not enough time to break down the collegen to gelatin, unless it is a very small sausage or the sausage is pre-cooked as is very common in Italy. In this case it is just a warming though process, which takes about fourty-five minutes.

Here is a link to the preparation of Cotechino and Zampone and cooking instructions/times per pound etc.

Cotechino & Zampone

Edited by Adam Balic (log)
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A related question (either that or an attempted hijack :raz:):

I purchased a small cotechino on Arthur Avenue a while back, and promptly forgot about it in the fridge (guess I should get a bigger one next time). When I stumbled across it a few days ago it had acquired the look, smell, and texture of dry-cured sausage. Quite a surprise, since I was expecting a moldy, rotten mess. It was wrapped in butcher paper, and I would guess it had been stored for six to eight weeks.

Safe to eat? What do you think?

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Fourty-five minutes is not enough time to break down the collegen to gelatin, unless it is a very small sausage or the sausage is pre-cooked as is very common in Italy. In this case it is just a warming though process, which takes about fourty-five minutes.

Here is a link to the preparation of Cotechino and Zampone and cooking instructions/times per pound etc.

Cotechino & Zampone

Thank you, Adam -- great link.

I recently read about pre-soaking cotechino (in one of Marcella Hazen's cookbooks), and it did seem to make the meat softer and creamier. I also cook it very gently for a long time. It's great with a little salsa verde.

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Cured meats are all 'raw' if by that you mean uncooked. All these recipes approach the same thing.  A long, slow low heat (simmer) cooking to blend the flavors. It tastes better and richer prepared in this way.

'raw' as in 'procuitto crudo', verses 'procuitto cotto'. Both are 'cured', one is 'raw', one is 'cooked'. I eat both. If the cotechino has not been par-cooked for sale it will require more then 45 minutes of cooking. Not, to 'cook' it, but to break down the collagen to gelatin and develop the flavour/texture. I cook my Ragu for more then 45 minutes for the same reason.

Robin - I'm sure it's fine, but if you die don't blame me. :biggrin:

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Safe to eat?  What do you think?

Robin, that's hardcore. If it smells and tastes good, I'd try it.

Toby, I hadn't known about (or had forgotten about) letting it stand in water for a few hours. Makes sense to me. I'll try it (or do it again).

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Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Thank you, everyone, for your wonderful posts. I have a good idea on how to cook the cotechino and lentils.

I'd appreciate some more input on the menu. Craig helpfully wrote that:

In Italy this would be called "un piatto unico" or a dish to be served by itself without a first course. The cotechino is quite rich and the lentils quite filling so it stands by itself. The exception is New Years Eve, which if you attend a dinner party, the cotechino con lenticchie will arrive after midnight no matter how many courses have preceded.

Maybe I'm breaking tradition, but I'd nevertheless like to serve the cotechino with a few other courses, even if they're simple and light. Wilfred offered the following:

I am thinking a salad to start, and then a sharp cheese to follow, but that's just me. Anyone know how the Italians do it?

Any more ideas?

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Thank you, everyone, for your wonderful posts.  I have a good idea on how to cook the cotechino and lentils.

I'd appreciate some more input on the menu.  Craig helpfully wrote that:

In Italy this would be called "un piatto unico" or a dish to be served by itself without a first course. The cotechino is quite rich and the lentils quite filling so it stands by itself. The exception is New Years Eve, which if you attend a dinner party, the cotechino con lenticchie will arrive after midnight no matter how many courses have preceded.

Maybe I'm breaking tradition, but I'd nevertheless like to serve the cotechino with a few other courses, even if they're simple and light. Wilfred offered the following:

I am thinking a salad to start, and then a sharp cheese to follow, but that's just me. Anyone know how the Italians do it?

Any more ideas?

I would agree with Wilfrid's suggestion. If you want to add another first course why not asparagus as it is in season. This is a good first course:

peel some asparagus and par-boil briefly

remove from water, drain and cut into 1 inch sections

In a medium hot saute pan (non-stick is a good idea) add some EV olive oil then pancetta and add 2 smashed (but whole) cloves of garlic - saute until the pancetta just starts to crisp. Then discard the garlic and put the pancetta on paper towels to absorb the fat. There should be a couple of tbls. of fat left in the pan - if there is more discard it.

Add the asparagus to the still hot saute pan and saute for about a minute. Lower the heat to medium and add the pancetta and mix. Carefully break one egg for each person into the pan - don't break the yolks. Sprinkle generously with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano and pepper. Cover and steam until the eggs are just done.

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Craig, thank you so much. That sounds amazing. Hopefully I'll be able to come across some decent asparagus on St Thomas. Cross your fingers for me.

Maybe I'll finish the dinner with the espresso granita recipe from the Zuni Cafe cookbook.

Please keep those menu ideas coming!

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the asparagus, pancetta, and egg dish sounds awesome, but (i think) a little heavy if it is to be followed by cotechino and lentils. why not try shaved brussels sprouts (or asparagus or fennel, depending on availability) lupa-style (e.g. shaved on a mandoline, tossed with evoo, lemon juice, s&p, and pecorino)?

i like the sound of espresso granita for dessert.

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I wanted to thank everyone who contributed to this thread and let you know how my meal turned out.

I took the cotechino out of the freezer on Thursday night and put it in the fridge to defrost. On Sunday afternoon, I put it in a bath of cold water and let it sit there for about three hours. Then I put it a large pot in fresh water, brought it to a boil, and let it simmer for just over two hours. I forgot to prick the skin, but that didn't turn out to be a problem.

As it was in the final stages of simmering, I prepared the lentils. I got some diced onion, carrot, and celery going in extra virgin olive oil. Then I added the lentils, one bay leaf, and liquid from the simmering sausage. I kept stirring the lentils for about a half hour, gradually adding the liquid as it absorbed into the lentils. I sliced the cotechino and served it over the lentils - absolutely delicious!

I started the meal with "zucchini carpaccio," a simple recipe I learned from Faith Willinger. I sliced the zucchini on a mandolin, then layered the rounds on a serving plate. Then I dressed it with shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano, extra virgin, real balsamico, and salt and pepper. It was a nice light first course, which complemented the heavy sausage and lentils perfectly.

We finished with espresso granita from the Zuni Cafe cookbook - granita layered with freshly-made whipped cream in a parfait glass. A rich dessert, but delicious.

Now I have to get my hands on a zampone...

Edited by jg488 (log)
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