Cheese and Pigs, a Natural Balance
Throughout Italy, cheese production is complementary to the curing of meats: wherever there is cheese, there is excess whey, which, when combined with bran and corn, becomes perfect feed for pigs. In Emilia-Romagna, where whey from cheesemaking is plentiful, salumi are abundant. There are over two million pigs in the region; archaeological data shows that they have been raised since at least 1000 B.C. near Piacenza, where some of the best Pancetta, salami, and Coppa (a forcemeat from the top of the pig's neck) are produced.
The two most famous Emilian cured meats are Mortadella di Bologna and Prosciutto di Parma. Mortadella is the original "baloney," made from ground pork threaded with wide strips of lard since the Middle Ages; pistachios, garlic, or truffles are sometimes added. Prosciutto di Parma, cured in and around the town of Langhirano, relies on top-choice thighs from meaty, heavy pigs. The thighs are trimmed of fat and rind and hung for one day; then massaged with salt and laid on saltcovered tables for one month; then rinsed, brushed, hung to dry, coated with a mixture of lard, flour, water, and pepper; and finally aged for ten to twelve months. Fortunately, both Mortadella and Prosciutto di Parma are exported to North America (see Sources, page 372 of the book).
Zampone is pork meat, head, and rind stuffed into the skin of the pig's hoof, a longstanding partner for lentils on holiday tables. It is made domestically, since the Emilian version does not yet meet FDA regulations.
Emilia's meats are just as likely to be stuffed as its pastas. Capon is filled with ground veal, pork, Mortadella, Prosciutto, chicken livers, pistachios, and Parmigiano; Cotechino sausage is wrapped in beef and Prosciutto; and veal loin in Reggio Emilia is butterflied and rolled around spinach, Pancetta, and frittata, as below. If you prefer, you can substitute Prosciutto di Parma for the Pancetta and Swiss chard for the spinach. While the veal is not roasted—it is cooked in a covered pan—the result is a browned, moist loin.
1-1/2 pounds spinach leaves,
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 extra-large eggs
2 pounds boneless veal loin, butterflied and
pounded thin with a mallet
1/4 pound thinly sliced Pancetta
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups Chicken Broth (page 368 of book),
plus extra if needed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cook the spinach in a covered 12-inch sauté pan over high heat for 5 minutes. Remove from the pan, rinse, chop, and squeeze dry. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in the same pan over medium heat and add the spinach and 1/3 cup of the Parmigiano; cook 5 minutes. Cool and drain off any liquid.
In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with the remaining 1/3 cup of Parmigiano. Heat a 10-inch nonstick skillet over a medium flame, add the eggs, and cook until set on both sides, about 2 minutes per side, turning once. Remove this frittata to a plate.
Place the veal on a cutting board, smooth side down. Top with the Pancetta, then with the frittata, cutting the frittata as needed to cover it, and finally with the sautéed spinach. Roll lengthwise into a bundle and tie with butcher's string.
Heat the olive oil and the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter in a 12-inch sauté pan over a medium-high flame. Add the veal and sear until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes, turning to cook evenly. Add the wine and cook 5 minutes. Add the broth, salt, and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 1 hour, or until the veal is firm but not dry and lets out a clear Juice when pierced, adding broth as needed. Discard the string, slice thinly, and serve hot, with the pan juices.
Stuff the veal up to 12 hours ahead and refrigerate.
Regional Italian Country Cooking
by Micol Negrin
Hardcover, 384 pages
Recipe reprinted by permission.
This page created May 2003
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