Lost in the misto of time
This is one dish I take absolute pleasure in preparing. It is kind of the ultimate cheffy challenge to execute a dish like this. I think it’s because of its various cuts, various textures and various cooking times. It asks a chef to be sensitive and prepared.
The complexity of the dish is determined by the ingredients you use. It could be simplified by just boiling the cotechino sausage and poaching the chicken, for instance. A more elaborate preparation of veal, beef and offal could take two days to cook.
I’ve made a bollito misto with six proteins and three vegetables – a sausage, piece of veal, piece of chicken, some tongue and brains, and oxtail, and young carrots, celery hearts and waxy potatoes cooked in the final broth. I would only attempt such a thing for a large group of people. Over two days it allowed me to chill down the broth and skim off the fat. It also allowed me to tell guests I had been cooking for two days.
The literal translation of bollito misto is mixed boil. It originated in northern Italy and is similar to the French pot-au-feu. Bollito misto is traditionally made with tougher, secondary cuts of meat. Over time it has become more elaborate. The meats can be somewhat interchangeable. Here I’ve called for veal short ribs, but brisket would work just as well. Because of the various flavours cooked together, the final broth can be quite complex and rich. The broth is not usually served with the dish, but it is never thrown away. I like to hold on to it and use it to cook risotto later in the week. I don’t add any further proteins – just a simple risotto based on the broth and finished with parmesan cheese.
I’ve been told of a restaurant where they have a trolley of meats floating in their separate compartments, and remove them to carve at the table. I am yet to find this restaurant, but would happily take directions.
Bollito misto is always served with a suite of accompaniments, which vary depending on preference. Some like a salsa rossa made of capsicum, tomato, chilli and onion cooked down to a thick and spreadable paste. I like to serve horseradish sauce and salsa verde, as well as mostarda or fruit candied in sugar syrup with mustard seeds. This last accompaniment is the defining detail. I’ve tried to make it before, and it absolutely failed. I recommend going out and buying some.
Bollito misto with salsa verde
– 1.2-1.5 kg piece veal short rib
– ½ head celery, stalks trimmed
– 2 carrots, peeled
– 2 fresh bay leaves
– 1 cotechino sausage
– 1 veal tongue or 4 lamb tongues
– 500g small kipfler potatoes, or other small waxy potato
– 500g cipollini onions, peeled
– Italian mustard fruits
– salsa verde (recipe below)
Place the short rib into a large pot and cover with plenty of cold water. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer very gently for about three hours, topping up the water as necessary so that it remains covered.
After one-and-a-half hours, add the celery, carrots and bay leaves to the pot of veal and continue to simmer until the veal is tender.
Place the cotechino sausage and the tongue in a deep pot and cover with cold water. Bring the water to the boil then lower the heat and simmer for one to one-and-a-half hours.
Boil the kipfler potatoes separately and peel them when they are cool enough to handle. Keep aside until needed.
Twenty minutes before the meat is ready, put the peeled cipollini onions into the pot with the veal. Ten minutes before serving the dish, put the boiled potatoes into the same pot to heat through.
When the tongue is cooked, lift it out of the cooking water and peel away its skin.
To serve, slice all the meats and present them on a platter with the vegetables. Season the meat broth left from cooking the short rib, and strain some of it into a jug to serve at the table. Accompany the meal with a small bowl of sliced mustard fruits and salsa verde.
– 1 cup packed mint leaves
– 1 cup packed parsley leaves
– ½ cup packed basil leaves
– 1 clove garlic
– ½ tsp Dijon mustard
– 2 tsp capers in vinegar
– 3 tsp white wine vinegar
– 2 fillets anchovies
– ⅔ cup olive oil
– pinch salt
Process all the ingredients in a blender until smooth.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 21, 2016 as "Bollito misto with salsa verde". Subscribe here.