The Italian Super Bowl
Every year, when winter is at its worst, I make Bollito Misto. It is one of the few things I can think of that will take the misery out of a cold winter day, and our friends have come to look forward to it. That’s a good thing, since a properly made bollito serves a small crowd. In case you have never tried it, bollito misto, which means mixed boil, is made by simmering a variety of meats, poultry, and vegetables together for several hours. The aroma fills the house with warmth. The resulting broth, which turns out rich and complex, is served as a first course with tortellini or other homemade pasta. That’s my idea of a super bowl! Then the tender meats are sliced and served with different sauces. Traditionally, bollito is made with veal, beef, and capon or chicken. Tongue is also typical. This year I added a few marrow bones to the broth as well. Cotechino, or zampone, two similar large sausages made by stuffing spiced ground pork in pork skin, are served as well, though they are cooked separately to avoid making the broth greasy.
Though it cooks without much attention, it’s a bit tricky to serve bollito misto because the meats have to be kept in the hot broth until the last possible moment or they will cool off and dry out. You really can’t waste any time slicing and serving the meat. In Italy many restaurants have a special stainless steel cart to serve bollito misto. The waiter rolls the carrello, as it is called, to your table and takes out each cut of meat one at a time from a large tub of steaming broth. He displays it and asks what you would like: a slice of this, perhaps, or maybe that, the lean or the fat? Some capon, light or dark meat? With the meats, a variety of sauces is served. My husband prefera mostarda, available in jars at most Italian markets, whole fruits cooked in a thick syrup flavored with mustard. The glistening fruits are spicy and sweet and their gorgeous color enhances the meat. The other essential sauce is Salsa Verde, a green sauce made with parsley, garlic, anchovies, capers and olive oil. I also accompany Bollito Misto with grainy mustard and coarse salt. Horseradish is good, too.
Our Bollito Misto dinner this year was all the more special because of the excellent wine, several vintages of aged Taurasi, supplied by our guests. For more information about them, read my husband, Charles Scicolone’s blog, at www.charlesscicolone.wordpress.com
Here is the recipe for Bollito Misto adapted from my book 1,000 Italian Recipes
1 large ripe tomato, halved and seeded
4 parsley sprigs with stems
2 celery ribs with leaves, coarsely chopped
2 large carrots, coarsely chopped
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove
1 boneless beef chuck roast, or brisket, about 3 pounds
1 boneless veal shoulder roast, or breast, rolled and tied, about 3 pounds
1 cotechino or other large garlic sausage, about 1 pound
1 whole chicken, about 3 1/2 pounds
Green Sauce and/or Mostarda
1. In a 5-gallon stockpot or two smaller pots of the same capacity, combine the vegetables and 3 quarts of water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
2. Add the beef and 2 teaspoons salt. Cook for 1 hour after the liquid returns to the simmer. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce, if necessary.
3. Add the veal to the stockpot; after the liquid returns to the simmer, cook 1 hour. If necessary, add more water so that the meats remain covered.
4. In a separate pot, combine the cotechino with water to cover by 1 inch. Cover and bring to a simmer. Cook 1 hour.
5. Add the chicken to the pot with the veal and beef. Bring to a simmer and cook, turning the chicken once or twice, for 1 hour, or until all of the meats are tender when pierced with a fork.
6. With a large spoon, skim the fat from the surface of the broth. Taste and adjust for salt. (If serving the broth as a first course, strain some of the broth into a pot, leaving the meats with the remaining broth in the stockpot to stay warm. Bring the broth to a simmer and add some cooked pasta. Serve hot with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, and a sprinkle of chopped parsley.)
7. Have ready a large warmed platter. Slice the meats and arrange on the platter. Drizzle with a little of the hot broth. Serve the sliced meat immediately with the sauces of your choice.