Cotechino with Polenta

Cotechino is a traditional sausage from Emilia-Romagna region in Northern Italy. It is traditionally served on New Year’s Eve. Italians serve it with lentils (to bring rishes in thew upcoming year), potatoes or polenta. I make Cotechino once a year, by that I mean I make the sausage mixture once a year. That mixture however, produces two sausages each about 2 lbs. The blue print for Cotechino like any sausage includes pork, pork fat and a variety of spices like cloves cinnamon and mace. The key ingredient in Cotechino and what makes it a Cotechino is pork skin. A good bit of pork skin. That boiled chopped skin is very rich in collagen, that wonderful protein that melts when heated and gives good stews a lip smacking lusciousness. This means that a Cotechino sausage, sliced thick while hot has a beautiful melting texture like nothing else.

I normally cook one sausage for New Year and freeze the other one for later. This year was no difference. I made the Cotechini (for the past two year’s I’ve been adapting Jason Molinari’s recipe) and served one with lentils on December 31st. The other one I cooked it last week. This was served with polenta and a simple tomato sauce. An important factor in cooking a cotechino, is not to boil it. It should cook at about 190F for several hours in water until all the collagen is melted. What better tool to control the temperature this time around other than my immersion circulator. So, I packed the sausage in a FoodSaver bag and poached it sous vide for 3 hours at about 185F. The result was fantastic, perfect taste and texture. Cotechino should be served steaming hot, but leftover sausage once cooled and sliced thin is excellent on top of bread with a dab of mustard.

The Belly of The Pig…

Pork belly and bean salad 

 ….is one deliciouse piece of meat, fat and gelatin! I am talking about that same cut you make bacon from. Maybe your local Megamart does not have it, mine doesn’t. If you have a local Asian or Hispanic market close buy, give them a try and I am pretty sure you’ll find this cut. Cooking is super easy but a bit time consuming. Here’s what I do. Score the skin side with parallel lines, cutting through the skin but not the meat at maybe 1/4 inch intervals. Season hevaily with salt and pepper and let sit overnight or for a few hours in the fridge in a covered dish (you can even keep it like that for a couple of days).

 When ready to cook, remove the meat from the fridge, pat it dry and place in an ovenproof pan or skillet skin side up. HEat the oven to 400F. Place the pan in the oven, let the meat cook for 10 minutes and reduce the heat down to 250 F. Let it cook for 4 hours or more till lots of fat is rendered, the meat is soft and the skin is crispy. You can even broil it for 5 minutes or so at the end to make an even crispier skin. That’s it! One of the best pork dishes is serving this on top of a simple white bean salad (drained canned Cannelini beans, herbs, tomatoes, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper).

Timpano al Antica

Have you seen Big Night? No! Well you need to. When thinking about a film that deals with food, very few movies come close to this one. It is a classic. Film is not the subject of this post however, it is the Timpano. That awe- inspiring masterpiece of pastry, pasta and sauces that Primo serves during the big night dinner at the end of the film.

Timpano has always fascinated me since I first saw the film a few years ago, but like so many things it had to wait and I never managed to get around to making it. Now, finally, due to cooking from Campania in September in eGullet’s Italy and Italian Cuisine forum, I did try a version of this dish. Click here to see my comments, negatives and positives. We are already planning our own tribute to Big Night with a few colleagues at work, and a new and improved Timpano will certainly be featured.