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Friday, November 15, 2013

Food: Bollito Misto



Bollito Misto is a traditional Northern Italian dish, much loved and prepared in the cold winter months. The name means "boiled mix," and that is exactly what the dish is. Bollito is most popular in the northern regions of Italy, such as Piemonte, Lombardia, and Emilia-Romagna, and has been so for centuries, as is witnessed by its common inclusion in several historic cookbooks. For example, a cookbook printed in 1694, Lo Scalco alla Moderna (The Modern Steward), includes 38 different varieties of bolliti.

In keeping with this tradition, we recently went to a special Serata Bolliti, featuring an all-inclusive, fixed-price bollito menu. Here's the traditional menu:

(  Continued ...   )

We began with a torta salata rustica, a type of quiche; ours was made of leeks and prosciutto. We were also given a small carafe of Piemontese red wine to share. 




After our tortas and a bit of wine had whet our palates, the main course arrived, with great presentation. A large platter of bolliti, a separate bowl of carrots and potatoes, and another plate, containing five different salsas: the salsa verde, Bearnaise, a horseradish compote, a garlic sauce, and the mostarda.



The main characteristic of a bollito is that it combines various tougher cuts of beef, veal, pork, and chicken, and simmers them slowly, all together, for several hours in an herbed broth. The meat, now very tender, is then sliced or cut into pieces, and served, in traditional style, with coarse salt, mostarda, salsa verde, horseradish, and other dressings. The broth created from the boiling is saved to make soups or risottos.

This bollito included all four of the types of meats, with some additional goodies as well; three types of sausages were on the platter, two pieces of each. All the plates were meant to be shared, and while it was intended for two, it could have been suitable for more.


A little bit more about the sauces. Mostarda is the traditional condiment served with bollito. In the photo below it is the bowl at high noon on the plate, with the maraschino cherries. Its full name is mostarda di frutta, and it is made of candied fruit and a clear, mustard-flavored syrup called essence of mustard. It is an interesting taste combination of sweet and spicy; it is meant to be eaten on the meat, and creates a very unique and delicious taste together.


Salsa verde, at 10 o'clock on the plate above, is a cold dressing made from parsley, vinegar, capers, garlic, onion, anchovies, and olive oil, all processed together. It gives a lighter, herby taste to the meat when taken together. Obviously, the fun with a bollito is to go slow, and to try the different meats with the different dressing combinations.

This was a meal to linger over and enjoy, and we did, but when we were ready there was a dessert included, Bonet alla Piemontese, seen below, another very traditional dish. Like bollito, bonet is typically eaten during the winter months. And, like the bollito, it has been prepared for centuries, with little variation apart from the addition of chocolate after the discovery of the New World. In old Piemontese dialect the word bonet means hat, and there are two old theories as to why it is called this. One theory is that the hat represented the chef's hat. And the other is that this was the last thing eaten before putting on one's hat to leave. Recipes abound on modern versions that are not difficult to prepare, and I had written about bonet once before on this blog, here, after having tried my very first one.




An espresso finished our meal. What a nice meal and evening it was. 

Bolliti come in many variations in the winter, and many restaurants may prepare their own, some simple and some more refined. Whichever version you find, or whatever your mood, if you're in these parts in these colder months, when you have the opportunity, try the comforting, satisfying bollito.



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