When I was growing up, my parents would split dinner duties.  On weekdays, my father would handle suppers.  His meals tended to be typically North American (steak, roast chicken) with the occasional classic upscale surprise (Oysters Rockefeller, Duck a L’Orange).  My mother’s weekend meals, on the other hand, consisted of Italian and seafood-themed plates (eggplant parmesan, oven-roasted mussels with potatoes and artichokes).  Both of my parents were Italian.  Both were great home cooks.  But, unlike many fellow Italians, their culinary repertoire never included sausage.  That was something we would eat on those rare occasions when we were gifted them from a friend of a friend’s uncle or neighbor who undoubtedly crafted them, following generations-old recipes, in the basements of their respective homes. And they were always a treat, markedly superior to the standard grocery store sausages and salamis, with their robust flavors and myriad textures: sweet, salty, smokey, sharp, soft, crisp, and juicy.

We used to enjoy a wide variety of these home made salamis and sausages, but one type in particular always stood out.  It was a sausage that only my father and I seemed to fully appreciate its intense pork flavor and lip-smacking sticky-chewiness, the result of the fat studding the meat.  Cotechino, if wikipedia can be believed, originated in early 16th century Italy when citizens, under siege, created cotechino out of necessity.

It’s been years since I had cotechino but, this morning, I was at Bosa Foods in Burnaby, when I happened to spot it in the meat section.  It was a daunting piece of meat, bigger and, frankly, greyer looking than the versions I was accustomed to, but it beckoned me.  As did the guy behind the counter who, no doubt sensing my hesitation, ran me through its simply preparation.  He instructed me to boil the cotechino for 30 minutes, change the water, then continue to simmer for another two and a half hours.  After that, all I had to do was remove the casing, slice it, and enjoy with a side of horseradish.  It seemed simple enough.

And it was!

Fresh out of the packaging, it doesn't look terribly appetizing
Fresh out of the packaging, it doesn’t look terribly appetizing, with its pronounced fat deposits .
Into the pot it goes.
Into the pot it goes.
And...done?  It actually looks worse after it's been cooked.
And…done? It actually looks worse after it’s been cooked.
I'm sure many of you will disagree, but I think it looks a lot better without the casing (which was quite easy to remove).
I’m sure many of you will disagree, but I think it looks a lot better without the casing (which was quite easy to remove).  And see.  I wasn’t kidding about that fat studding.
Slice.
Slice.
And serve.
And serve.

I’m not a big fan of horseradish, so I had my cotechino with three different mustards – none of which worked.  So, instead, I ended up enjoying it au naturel with a side salad and a selection of cheeses.

Akemi tried a bite, frowned, put the rest in my plate, reconsidered, took another bite, frowned, and put the rest in my plate once again. She claimed it was the fattiest thing she’d ever eaten, even outperforming foie gras with its roughly 44% fat content.  Her verdict: “Tastes like diabetes.”

For my part, I liked it.  Although a little goes a very long way.

23 thoughts on “September 10, 2013: Fearless Food! Cotechino!

  1. It looks fine out of the casing – more like a hard salami such as genoa – but if I wanted to eat that much fat I’d just self-cannibalize. 😛

    das

  2. Ahh…you’re striking a childhood memory cord here.

    When I was eight, my family sold one of our road-side acres to an Italian butcher shop owner. He was going to build a butcher shop there for our small town. However, even though there were other commercial properties on that street, the town council refused to grant him a building permit. We offered to buy the land back but he decided to hold on to it anyway.

    We ended up tending the property for him and I would regularly cut the grass to keep it tidy. We never charged him, but to thank us for the up keep, every year he would provide us with a selection of Italian deli meats for Christmas. The pepperoni alone was worth the year of grass cutting! I would sit in front of the TV, watching my favorite shows, munching on a whole stick of hand-crafted pepperoni. Sadly, he passed away when I was in my twenties, and no store-bought pepperoni has come close in the years since.

    Great! Now I want to go make my own pepperoni!

    By the way, I bet your cotechino would go great on a water cracker or on a slice of hard toast.

  3. I wonder how it would be cooked with a large pot of beans, like pinto beans? Let it boil by itself the first 30 minutes, change the water, add the beans, a big onion, and let it cook the rest of the time. When finished cooking, slice some to eat and slice some in chunks to put back into the beans. Mmmmmm. Sounds good to me.

    1. Actually, that’s pretty close to the way it’s traditionally served: with either lentils or white navy beans.

  4. She claimed it was the fattiest thing she’d ever eaten, even outperforming foie gras with its roughly 44% fat content. Her verdict: “Tastes like diabetes.”

    i think it would be more accurate to say; “it’s tastes like a heart attack.”

  5. Joe, do you remember/retain everything you read, even if it’s just a portion of the story? I find that if I can’t remember a book, story, or character a few weeks after finishing it then I feel like I wasted my time consuming ‘junk food’. It’s probably why I enjoy series (like the Pendergast books) more than reading one-shot type books.

    das

  6. PS: Keep in mind that I can’t even remember what I wrote days – sometimes even minutes – after I’ve written it, so I guess it comes as no surprise that I have trouble remember what other people wrote, too. 😛

    das

  7. RememberING. Seems I can’t even remember what I’m writing as I’m writing it. 😛

    das

  8. Actually looks really yummy! (half-Italian here). 🙂
    @das, not remembering what you read is beneficial, you can reread and enjoy just as much as the first time! My memory is like swiss cheese, so I know.

  9. Thankfully I live over the road from a farm shop run by a butcher who makes his own sausages (English-style – the ones you put on a BBQ) and salami (“European” style – the ones you slice and have with cheese, olives, etc). When you walk into the shop you can see the salami hanging from the ceiling in various stages of fermentation. It’s great! I should ask him for a lesson in how to make them.

    @geforce: Thanks for the Good Times video. It didn’t help much, though. 🙂 I don’t think Good Times ever made it to Australian TV. Or, if it did, it was not one I watched.

  10. And by @geforce I mean @gforce. I don’t know why I always want to put the extra ‘e’ in there. Are you named after the heroes from the ’70s cartoon Battle Of The Planets? I loved that cartoon!

  11. “Tastes like diabetes?” This from one who regularly ingests enough sugar to kill half the diabetics on the planet??? My great grandmother was right,,,as in,,,”All that sugar is gonna make you diabetic…”. Sugar overloads the insulin receptors. Fat has no such effect. Eat Cotechino and be happy…

  12. I’ve never had cotechino, but I do know that “tastes like diabetes” is my favorite Akemi-ism EVER.

  13. I’ve never heard of cotechino. I like Ponytail’s idea about cotechino with beans though.

    I love Akemi’s way of phrasing (ism’s). She pairs down to the heart of a subject with surgical precision. It’s uncanny really.

    That pistachio cake looked so dreamy the other day. I’ve never had pistachio cake but now I reallllly want to.

    JeffW: Chattanooga was fun but we didn’t go to any interesting restaurants. Some of the locals did recommend a Southern food style breakfast place. It had jalapeno bacon and multi grain biscuits. I did “rest” my vegetarian diet to try the bacon. The jalapeno bacon was good paired with the eggs. http://bluegrassgrillchattanooga.com/ Loveless’s Café is still my favorite.
    Oh and I loved your Con pictures!

  14. Never met a sausage I didn’t like…..yet. My favorite growing up was my grandmother’s potatiskorv, which is a Swedish sausage(I’m half Swedish) made largely with potatoes and beef, but her specialty was adding brown sugar and maple syrup as a wash for the casings and baking it in a shallow bath of the same. It didn’t add as much sweetness as it sounds like it would, but just enough to make a great balance of the salty and sweet and make us look forward to Christmas time at her house every year just for the potatiskorv!

    Bad news for Cookie….. they made a sequel to The Guyver. The Guyver 2: Dark Hero. No joke:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-i2_hkTy9po

    Definitely looks like they’re trying to pick up on some of the popularity of the Power Rangers type of look/feel/action. Sad.

    -Mike A.

  15. “Tastes like diabetes”? Was it that sweet? 😉

    Just taking a slight break from writing a stageplay for my drama class to say hi, and also to let you know my webseries has one scene plus one webisode left to shoot (waiting on some renovations at a location, should be done in a few weeks, lol)..Yes I am still fundraising, the addy to find out more information is http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/preflight-launch-top-up-funds so if you want to check it out go ahead!!!

  16. Haha, “tastes like diabetes”? Was it excessively sweet?? 😉 Sorry, could not resist!!

    I am still working on my webseries (mostly in post production although I have one scene plus one episode to shoot in about a month or so’s time due to a location being renovated), and what the heck, here’s the website addy for our top-up funds campaign on Indiegogo, it is http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/preflight-launch-top-up-fund

    I will hazard a guess that with the house repairs you have to deal with right now that you might not be able to make a donation, but feel free to check it out!!!

    All the best,
    Marjorie

  17. @das…. I too have the memory span of a gnat. A forgetful gnat at that. I can reread books and rewatch movies happily, because I can’t quite recall the whole thing. Never ask me for movie quotes if it isn’t one of my dozen beloved standards (Blazing Saddles, Blues Brothers, or musicals).
    Saves me a ton of money.

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