It was very early into my time working at Mistura, a mainstay of Toronto’s Italian dining scene, that I had my first exposure to cotechino. Bollito misto may not be the most well known Italian dish, but it is very classically Italian, relying on quality ingredients that have been simply prepared. This was the first time I had seen the dish, but while it was new to me, most of the ingredients were pretty common. The one that stuck out was the delicious cotechino sausage with its exceptional texture. It isn't a common ingredient in Toronto, and I haven't had much of a chance to work with it since, until our resident Charcutier Scott started making his own.
Like most great charcuterie, cotechino was born of a need to conserve limited meat supplies for the longest possible time. Rumour has it that this sausage's use dates to the early 1500's in Northern Italy. It is very similar to the traditional zampone, with the main difference being that zampone are typically stuffed into the hind trotter from the pig. The French produce a version of their own (which Scott has also played around with) called sabodet.
Our house-made cotechino is a combination of pork meat, fat and skin, and flavoured with ground coriander and warm spices such as allspice, cinnamon and ginger. It's the use of the pork skin that leads to the unique texture of the cotechino.
While you could, I suppose, use cotechino in most any instance where you would use regular pork sausages, there are a couple of applications we would specifically recommend for you. The combination of most accessible and traditional would be as part of your New Year's Eve dinner, served with lentils (which represent the prospect of money to come in the new year). Less traditional but equally delicious would be in place of our regular breakfast sausages at any holiday brunch. And then there’s bollito misto. This is a fantastic use of the product, but much better suited to someone who has a full day to devote to the prep, and 11 friends to share the meal with. However you choose to enjoy our cotechino, come in for it soon as we only make it through the holiday season. Felice anno nuovo!