01 January 2011

New Year cooking

One of the most popular traditions in Italy is to eat "cotechino" or "zampone" on the first day of the  year, accompanied by lentils... This is meant to bring a prosper new year, with lentils "bringing money" to you.
I can guarantee it won't work :-), but it's a good dish, so I thought this year I could take some photos of my cotechino to show how the dish is prepared.

Cotechino is similar to a big sausage (it usually weighs around half a kilo) made  with meat and   "low-value" parts of the pig that couldn't be put to better uses... Traditionally nothing could go wasted (people were poor in ancient times!), and  many traditional recipes use ingredients we would hardly eat today...
So cotechino is  fat and certainly not indicated in a diet, but as we eat it once or twice a year, it's not a big problem...
There are many brands of pre-cooked  cotechini, sold in metallised plastic envelopes that must be boiled  just for 10 or 20 minutes, but this time I bought a "real" one, to be cooked completely.
The first operation to do is to prick it with a needle or a skewer..._Not_ with a fork, as the fork would make many holes close to each other, that would cause the cotechino to  break while cooking.
Then it must be put in cold water and be left there for 3 hours.  Here it is, before cooking...

I'm not sure what this operation is meant to do! Maybe it serves to soften the skin as it gets soaked in water, that's my only guess.. Anyway I left mine in the water overnight, as otherwise I would have had to get up in the very early morning to put it in the water in time to cook it for lunch. (Apparently it didn't get any damage from staying in the water so long).
Cotechino must be boiled, but it can't be just boiled as it is, as it must cook for a long time and it would break... It must be enveloped in a fabric.
A kitchen towel is perfect; of course don't choose a nicely printed or embroidered one! Think that it will have to boil for three hours; any old discoloured kitchen towel will be alright.
I wrapped an old towel around my cotechino and tied it with some rope, so that it wouldn't unfold during  the long cooking

 Then I started cooking it and let it boil slowly for three hours (yes, that's a lot of time, but you can just leave it there  by itself and do other things, it doesn't even risk burning it! Just keep the water boiling very slowly).

After three hours it was  ready! I took it out of the water and unfolded the towel carefully, then placed the cotechino on the dish with lentils (see the first photo of this post!)
Lentils were prepared very simply, I just minced a couple of carrots, an onion and a cerely then fried them with a little butter and a few small pieces of bacon, then added lentils ...Normally I would add a little wine but I didn't have it so I couldn't do that; I added water and a stock cube. Anyway there are several possible variations, lentils can cooked in many ways and there are probably a lot of  family traditions!

So that was my main dish for the 1st day of the yearm as in most Italian families!

And in case you wonder where the three Kings are today, they have advanced further along the corridor bookcase, and here they are, in a very narrow point (and yet worse parts are coming!)...

1 comment:

fabriquefantastique said...

I shall try it...Toronto has many excellent Italian stores