Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Zampone con Lenticchie

Zampone with Lentils

Zampone is a primary dish across Italy during the Holiday period. In northern Italy the use of Zampone continues throughout the winter season. The most common dinner for Zampone is New Year's eve together with Lentils. In Bergamo and some parts of Brianza they call Lentils "denari" or coins. The tradition is that each lentil represents a coin to be earned during the year and Zampone which is ground pork stuffed in the skin of a pig's leg is the purse. Zampone is usually a 75% meat to 25% fat mix. Additionally the snout and other pieces considered delicacies may be included. The meat, coarsely chopped or ground, as if it were Salami meat is then mixed with salt, pepper, cloves, garlic, nutmeg and some red wine. The pigskin or "cotenna" is cleaned with vinegar and the pig foot is left on. Finally the meat mixture is placed in the skin, wound and tied. It is then left to cure at about 68 degrees and 50-55% humidity. One day I will tell you how I learned to prepare Zampone.

Zampone has long been a favorite in Italian families. The origin is most reputably from Mirandola in the 1500s. At that time there was a war between the French and the Italians regarding who was the rightful heir to the papacy. Mirandola was a fortified city fighting to maintain its independence from the Duke of Modena. The castle walls, in form of an eight-point star, were impenetrable but the ruling family was full of strife. Seeking to increase their commercial standing they created an alliance with France while Modena was aligned with Rome. This choice led to two primary sieges during the 1500. The first attack by the warrior Pope Giulio II and later by Giulio III.

During the 1510-1511 siege the people of Mirandola were sure the city would fall. To assure themselves that nothing of value was left for the enemy so they killed all of their pigs. This created a different problem: How to use all of the meat? They were under siege and needed all of the foodstuffs available. One of the Chefs to the court suggested that the meat be cut into small pieces, mixed with herbs, spices and salt for conservation to be cooked at a later time as needed. Since it was winter, and winter in that area is very cold, they were not concerned about the eventual degradation of the meat. The same meat mix is used to make Cotecchino, which, instead of the pigskin, uses the intestines as casings.

Zampone is an important. Zampone will be found at the Italian dinner table for New Year’s eve just as Turkey is found in the US for Thanksgiving. It is so important that a fraternity exists to protect the origin and quality of Zampone. Here they are.

Cooking Zampone is not extremely difficult but you must pay attention and go slowly. Today, most places that will supply uncooked Zampone will also have a cooked version available.

Preparation Zampone:

Place the Zampone in cold, unsalted water the night before. Allow to soak overnight so the Zampone will release much of the salt used in the curing process. The following morning remove the Zampone from the water and place on thin cotton kitchen towel. Make several small incisions under the nails of the pig foot and, with a large fork, punch several small holes along the length of the Zampone. This is to release the steam that will accumulate inside and avoid bursting the casing.

Roll rather tightly the Zampone in the kitchen towel and tie off the ends of the towel with cooking twine. Place in large pot with abundant cold water. Do not add salt or any other seasoning. Turn the heat on medium low (if you do not have a medium low then use low) and allow to cook for at least 3 hour per 2 lbs.

Ingredients Lentils
400 grams (about 1 lb.) of Dry Lentils
1 Carrot
1 Onion
1 Stalk of Celery
½ cup Red Wine
1 cup Tomato crushed
Olive Oil

Preparation Lentils:

The night before (at least 12 hours) place the dry lentils in a bowl of cold water. Allow to sit for at least 12 hours.

Drain the lentils. Chop the celery, onion and carrot into small pieces. Place in a large pot with 3 tablespoons of Olive Oil and sauté over medium heat. When the onions are translucent add the lentils and the wine. Continue on medium heat until the ½ of the liquid has evaporated. Add the crushed tomatoes and ½ cup of water, cover and cook for an hour. Stir every 10 minutes.

To Serve:

Open the Zampone, cut into ½ inch slices and let the water drain. Create a base of lentils on a serving dish, with ¾ of the lentils, and arrange the disks of the Zampone on the lentils. Finally use the remaining lentils and sauce to dribble evenly over the Zampone. Serve hot with a hearty red wine. Some good choices could be a Barolo, Barbaresco, Valcalleppio, or Refosco, Brunello or other aged Tuscany . Avoid young reds and whites will most likely be overwhelmed.


Labels: , ,


Blogger Stefanio said...

Nice one! Most non-italians that I meet and describe this to think it sounds disgusting - but oh how wrong can they be! once they try it they love it!

5:12 AM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

Stefanio - how correct you are. Just think they love hotdogs!!!

5:31 AM


Post a Comment

<< Home