Behind its prosaic ‘boiled meats’ title lies one of the great dishes of the global kitchen, and the Italian variation on the pot au feu theme that I like best Essentially a dish from Piedmont it is today a house speciality that people in Italy still go a long way to find.
Restaurants which offer it have special steel serving chariots with individual compartments for the beef, veal, tongue, chicken and zampone or cotechino sausage which are all carved at the table. As well as the broth which is ladled over, the carved meats are accompanied by boiled root vegetables and a sharp-tasting salsa verde, which cuts the richness of the different flesh elements. Sometimes a salsa rossa or red pepper sauce is served too, as well as mostarda di Cremona - the sweet but hot mustard fruits which were once only found in Italian delis, but are now widely available.
This recipe is a version of the bollito misto we serve in the restaurant, where it takes three days to prepare. It is reallyMarcella Hazan’s bollito misto with Little variations and is a labour of love, strictly for people who like to eat lots of meat.
However, lengthy preparation does not mean it is difficult to achieve. Your hard work will be amply rewarded with a spectacular lunch or dinner, and excellent cold cuts for days afterwards. You will also have several litres of stock left over, which you can reduce and freeze. The leftover meat can also be served as a soup made from the stock and vegetables, with a little leaf spinach blanched and added at the last moment for colour and freshness. Alternatively, you can use the meat in apressed terrine.
The very first time I made the all singing and dancing bollito, I had a new kitchen porter called Pinto who had just started working for me. He was very good news, though at that point he spoke no English... One in the morning, the end of a long shift and all was ready for the next day. I put the huge tray of meat and the vegetables into the fridge and looked round for the vast pan of jewel-bright, glistening broth. It was nowhere to be seen, for Pinto - thinking my mystical distillation to be dirty water - had helpfully poured it down the sink. I felt sick and had to sit down. I did not say anything to him. What was there to say after all? But my face must have told its own story, for the next day Pinto arrived at work looking downcast and pressed a note into my hand from his English girlfriend begging my forgiveness and asking me not to fire him.
The quantities given here provide a feast for about 10 hungry devotees, but will comfortably feed 20. If serving large numbers, increase the vegetables so everybody gets an onion, a carrot and a leek. This dish really has to be cooked in large quantities and just does not work in scaled-down versions. Plain boiled potatoes also go well with it.