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Bollito Misto alla Piemontese Recipe - Piemontese Boiled Dinner

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Boiled Dinner: Bollito Misto
© Kyle Phillips Licensed to About.Com
Boiled dinner sounds terribly obvious, and it is. However, in the last century Crown Prince Vittorio Emanuele and his friends would sneak off to Moncalvo, a town far from the stifling air of the Court in Torino, to enjoy a rich, flavorful bollito misto: seven kinds of meat, seven vegetables, and seven condiments. To serve 8 to 10, you will need:

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 3 hours

Total Time: 4 hours

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 pounds (1 k) beef -- the cut used in Italy is shoulder; James Beard suggests beef brisket
  • 2 1/4 pounds (1 k) neck or breast of veal
  • 1 1/4 pounds (500 g) calf's head (see note)
  • A veal's tongue, weighing 1 1/4 pounds (500 g)
  • A chicken, weighing about 2 1/4 pounds (1 k)
  • A cotechino weighing about 3/4 pound (350 g) (see note)
  • 2 carrots
  • 3 ribs celery
  • 2 onions, stuck with 2 cloves each
  • Salt

Preparation:

Continuing with the introduction, Though seven kinds of meat may seem like a lot, the variety is important because each compliments the others, producing a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. You should include beef, veal, pork, chicken, tongue, zampone or cotechino, and feel free to add whatever other cuts of meat you feel might work. The pieces should be from older animals, because they will be more flavorful, and should also be large - this means that a good bollito misto is ideal for a convivial meal with friends, or for when you want to make something that will provide the wherewithal for several meals. In terms of cooking technique, preparing a bollito misto is straight forward: Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil and add the beef, veal, chicken and vegetables (the hot water seals the meat; see below for timing). Boil, separately, the tongue and zampone or cotechino, assuming you choose to include them.

Next, the notes --
Calf's head:
Though required by tradition, this is becoming difficult to find; should you choose not to include it, increase the beef and veal, or add a pound of lean pork instead.
A cotechino is a pork sausage, available in Italian delicatessens; you can also use a zampone, which is a stuffed pig's trotter.

And finally, the recipe:
Fill a large pot with water sufficient to cover the meat. Lightly salt the water, add the vegetables, set the pot on the fire. Since you want the flavor to remain in the meat, wait until the water comes to a boil before adding the beef (the heat will seal in its juices). Reduce the flame to a simmer, and after about an hour, add the breast of veal, chicken, and calf's head (should you prefer not to use it, increase the quantities of beef and veal, or add a pound of lean pork -- this isn't piemontese, but the emilians do it.)

In the meantime, set a second pot of lightly salted water on the fire, bring it to a boil, and begin simmering the tongue when you add the veal and chicken to the beef.

If you are using a fresh cotechino or zampone set it in a pot of cold lightly salted water at this time (prick the cotechino all over, or loosen the string of the zampone first) and begin simmering it. If you instead buy precooked sausage, follow the instructions on the package. The meats will be done when they are fork-tender, this will take about an hour or slightly more from when you add the veal and the chicken to the beef.

Come serving time, the meats should be arranged on a heated platter, sprinkled with a ladle of hot broth, and carved at the table (cut the tongue and the cotechino or zampone, into 1/2-inch slices).

In addition to meats and condiments you will need vegetables -- again, variety is important. Seasonal variability will of course dictate your selection, but it should include at least onions, carrots and celery, boiled in or steamed over lightly salted water until are fork-tender; I would also include potatoes, and would serve the vegetables with olive oil, coarse sea salt (kosher will do), and unsalted butter for those who want them.

In addition to the sauces listed in the related links below, you should consider is Mostarda d'uva, a jam-like condiment made from grape must that goes quite nicely with boiled meats, and is also surprisingly good with a selection of cheeses (you can substitute granulated honey in this case). Alas, the recipes I have seen all call for beginning with a gallon or more of grape must, an ingredient not easily available in most places. Nor is mostarda d'uva easy to find outside of Piemonte. However, if you have access to a well stocked delicatessen, you may be able to substitute Mostarda di Cremona, a distinctive sauce made by candying fruit with mustard seeds. As a final pair of condiments for your bollito, you may want some balsamic vinegar -- the Emilians generally do -- and also mustard and mayonnaise.

Finally, don't forget to serve good Italian-style bread.

In this discussion we have overlooked one very important point: In a festive Italian meal, a bollito misto alla piemontese would be served as a second course. What to serve as a first? Tortellini in broth would be perfect: Degrease the beef/chicken broth(1) (the broths from the tongue and the cotechino will be too greasy), and serve each of your guests a steaming bowl of broth with 8-10 good quality store-bought tortellini of the traditional meat-filled variety. The wine? A good moderately aged Barbera D'Asti would work quite well; it's a medium-bodied red wine with nice fruit and a fairly high level of acidity that will do a fine job of balancing the fats present in boiled meats and sausages. Other possibilities include a robust Dolcetto di Dogliani, for example Giovanbattista Gillardi's Dolcetto di Dogliani Cursalet (his Vigna Maestra is also very nice), or a good Bardolino, for example Corte Gardoni's Bardolino Superiore or Bardolino Classico le Fontane. Dessert? The choice is up to you.

A Quick reply to Cindy:
Horseradish sauce is wonderful with bollito misto. But it's not a Piemontese thing. You'll find it served alongside bollito in the Veronese (and I assume you must have it too in nearby FVG), where it is called cren. You're right about cotechini too -- they are an important part of the bollito misto, but are boiled separately. I'm not sure I would want to try the cooking liquid, because it would be extremely fatty. Not a good broth.

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