That would be me, Mrs. Moglie. Married to a native Italian, Mr. Marito.
Mother to a daughter in high school, Ms. SmartyPants and a son in middle school, Mr. Uometto.
Employed at a private British School as an English teacher and Coordinator of Children's Studies.
Part of a small, but growing Protestant church in Frascati, a small town in the hills just outside of Rome.

This is where I sometimes gripe, complain and grumble about the things I dislike, have yet to get used to or simply don't understand about bella Italia.
I do, however, have many people, places and things that I dearly love and I am more than aware of being blessed by each and every one of them.
Also - a few helpful posts for visitors to Rome or for newly arrived ex pats. Check the side bar for tags. I've even some recipes that I've borrowed, tweaked or invented. One thing I've come to love about Italy is how it's changed the way I eat - slow food !! Although ... I do miss Taco Bell ... and Jack in The Box ... and KFC ... and ::sigh::
Thanks for stopping by !!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Icky Sticky Cotechino

New Years is traditionally celebrated with a meal of Cotechino at midnight. This is our first New Year without my late mother-in law. We miss her in so many ways, at so many occasions and for so many reasons, I couldn't possibly name them all. But I will mention one: she could cook! She was the mistress of her kitchen, even at 87 years of age. She taught me so very many recipes and I was even able to share a few of my mine own with her. One thing she never did get around to teaching me was the classic Italian dish from Modena called Cotechino. Actually, as it turns out, it's not too difficult. It normally comes in a thick aluminum-type sealed bag and all one has to do is place it in boiling water and let it simmer for 15 - 30 minutes, depending on its size. What normally is accompanied with the Cotechino is lentils (and boiled potatoes). I had never really liked lentils before coming to Italy and had never made them. I learned to like the taste of lentils, eating Mrs. Suocera's Lentils and Sausages -yum- So with the prospect of having to cook Cotechino and Lentils, I did what I could. I asked the Italian greengrocer's mother-in-law for a recipe. And what a recipe it is! Just to prepare myself for the big day that would come on December 31st, I tried my hand at Lentils and Sausages months in advance. Delicious, if I do say so myself.

  • olive oil (about 2 Tablespoons)
  • one each onion, carrot and celery stalk, finely chopped (the Greengrocer's mother-in-law said that some recipes ask for garlic in place of the onion, but I prefer omitting the garlic and sticking with the onion)
  • 300 grams of quick cooking lentils (not the kind you need to soak overnight and I also prefer to use the smaller ones)
  • one can of tomatoes (anything works, really, except for cherry tomatoes. You can use diced, puree, whole, etc. and depending on your preference, you can use from 1/4 of the tomatoes to the whole can)
  • sausages - as many as you like or will fit into your pot (do not use the Hillshire Farms kind of sausages or breakfast sausages. Use only fresh, seasoned, aged or ground sausages and be sure to remove the skin before placing them in the pot or peeling each one at mealtime will be a big chore)
  • water, enough to cover
  • salt (optional and/or depending on the quantity of flavor the sausages will have added to the lentils)
  • Heat a large pot (one that has an accompanying lid/cover)
  • Add oil to the already hot pot and swirl to cover un-oiled areas of the pot bottom
  • Add onion, carrot and celery and cook, stirring occasionaly, over medium low heat for about 5-7 minutes or until soft
  • Add lentils, tomatoes, sausages and enough water to just barely cover the sausages and lentils
  • Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until lentils have cooked (about 20-30 minutes)
  • Stir occasionally and check if there's still enough water/liquid to thoroughly cook the lentils. If needed, add more water or more tomatoes
  • When finished, taste test and add salt if necessary
Voilà !! 

As for the Cotechino, it's exactly the same recipe EXCEPT you'll simply add the cooked Cotechino at presentation. You can, of course, omit the sausages and follow the recipe for a plate of lentils. BUT if most people you know are like me, they will not take too kindly to the Cotechino and so it would be wise to have a substitute meat, like, sausages for them ^.^ 

Icky Sticky Cotechino: it's what's for dinner
Cotechino is, in my opinion, just plain gross. It's icky and sticky and smelly. Mr. Marito, Mr. Suocero and Mr. Uometto don't find it at all icky, enjoy the sticky and swoon over the smelly. Different folks, different things will make us gag and choke. Cotechino happens to make Ms. SmartyPants and me do just that while it makes the menfolk's mouths water. 

After you've boiled the bag containing your Cotechino, and it's sufficiently heated, you will need to cut a small slit into the bag at one end and drain the ... mmm ... liquid and other slimy things that come spilling out. You'll definitely want to do this in a well ventilated part of the kitchen (it's smelly, remember?), preferably over the sink, should you, like me, accidentally cut a too large slit and while tipping the bag over to drain the juice, the large heavy hunk of zampone (paw) comes spilling out with a huge kerplunk! and gets Cotechino juice and jelly and liquid and bone fragments all over the sink, the counter, the kitchen tiles and you. If you are not in the habit of wearing an apron, you should on this one occasion, when preparing Cotechino.

Oh, you're probably wondering about the zampone. All Cotechino are encased in a lining of fat; some people eat it, some remove it and throw it out. If you remove it, like me, here's where the stickiness really shows itself. If you place it on a cutting board, actually, any surface, really, it will stick to that surface. When you remove the lining and then proceed to cut the Cotechino (all the while holding your breath, of course) you will, at some point, come to the inevitable situation of having Cotechino slices stick to just about everything except for other Cotechino slices. There's just something really wrong with smooshed pork parts sticking to your hands and fingers with suction cup abilities. Oh, but I was supposed to be writing about the zampone, wasn't I? Stop that, Brain! Some types of Cotechino are encased in the actual arm, leg, paw, whatever you want to call it, of the pig. At least, it has that shape. Only it's all wobbly and sticky. The point is, it scared the living daylights out of me to see, what looked like, a pale wobbly gobbly icky sticky smelly pig's front leg in my sink. I'm not judging people who see such things and drool with desire from the bottom of their grumbling stomachs, after all, I'm married to one. But it just wasn't something that Brain had anticipated to see or could have ever imagined, even if Brain had tried. 

1 comment:

jojofromvictoria said...

I am with you! Icky, Sticky Cotechino. I will eat Fritole any day before I would ever eat this again! Cheers!