Cotechino is a sort of thick sousage, made with second choice meats and rind (= cotica from which the name), spices and salt.
It is the most traditional dish for the new year where I live, and as I like it very much, I like to prepare it often during Winter.
Traditionally it is served with mashed potatoes (pured potatoes), but on the first day of the year lentils are the preferred side because we believe they bring good luck and money!
I am not sure you can find a fresh cotechino, but there are many pre-cooked ones which are delicious and get cooked quite quickly in their bag (usually 30 minutes). They are very nice and the meat is just a little bit softer. And of course the spices can be slightly different. Also you can find zampone, more typical of the Modena area, nearly the same taste and same preparation.
Ingredients for 4
1 cotechino 1.5 lbs (600 gr)
250 grs dry lentils
1 bay leaf
1 stick celery
1 small onion
salt to taste
the grated zest of an organic orange
2 spoons vegetable oil
1) Fresh cotechino has to boil for at least 2 hours. No special ingredient needed, just put it in a pan with lots of water, bring it to the slow boil. Put a lid on it and let it cook.
2) Put the lentils in a colander and wash them under a stream of cold water.
3) Prepare a "soffritto" by processing the carrot, onion and celery and gently sauté them in a pan with some oil, until the carrot becomes yellow and soft.
4) Add the bay leaf and the lentils and the hot vegetable stock to cover the lentils. They should be completely soaked.
Taste the stock and add salt if needed. Let the lentils boil for at least 45 minutes, or until soft, stirring now and then because they tend to stick. If needed add more stock.
When ready take off fire and keep warm (put a lid on). Before serving, remove the bay leaf and grate on them some orange zest, it will give freshness and a special taste to your pulses!
5) After 2 -2.5 hours your cotechino is ready. Discard the boiling water and drain your cotechino. I prefer to take off the outer gut, but if you are cooking a
pre-cooked cotechino leave it on because you will cut it more easily. You will peel it off in each dish.
Prepare a warm serving plate with your hot lentils.
Let the cotechino cool down for a minute or two and then slice it. Slices break easily.
6) Arrange hot cotechino on the lentils and serve immediately.
Tip: If the lentils dry too much because they completely absorb the liquid, warm them up with some more hot vegetable stock.