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!
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.