In northern Italy’s sub-Alpine areas, particularly Piedmont and Lombardy, Bollito Misto (mixed boil) is the culinary cure for chilly damp winters. Not so much an exact recipe as it is a ritual, the dish can include beef, veal, cotechino sausage, chicken or capon and aromatic vegetables. Tougher cuts of meat are simmered slowly in water—not actually boiled at all—for hours until they are fork tender and the resulting broth is liquid heaven. I actually crave hot broth in the cold months. I believe my body is saying, “I need to be hydrated. I need some savory steam to open my dry air passages.”
In Italy, bollito misto is typically prepared for a crowd because it takes so many different ingredients to achieve the desired flavor complexity. The broth is often ladled into bowls as a first course, sometimes embellished with tortellini and Parmesan cheese. The meats are then served separately as a secondo, or second plate, garnished with mostarda di frutta, salsa rosa, or salsa verde.
In my kitchen, I opt for a simpler version made with beef and chicken. I also cook carrots, onion, celery, and potatoes in the broth to serve with the meats. This makes a wonderful one-dish meal with plenty of leftovers for lunches.
The salsa verde may be prepared several days in advance and refrigerated in a tightly closed container. Thanks to Michele Scicolone in her cookbook 1,000 Italian Recipes for the tip on adding fresh bread crumbs to bind the salsa verde.
Bollito Misto Semplice
Makes about 8 servings
10 cups filtered water
6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 cup drained canned plum tomatoes
4 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 1/2 to 3 pounds beef top round or chuck
1 broiler-fryer chicken (3 1/2 to 4 pounds), quartered
4 carrots, cut into 3-inch lengths
4 ribs celery, cut into 3-inch lengths
1 1/2 pound red potatoes, quartered if large
1 large onion, cut into wedges
Salt and pepper
Minced parsley (optional)
Salsa verde (recipe follows)
Mostarda di frutta
In a 10 to 12-quart pot, bring the water, broth, tomatoes, bay leaves, thyme and garlic to a boil. Add the beef. Reduce the heat so the mixture simmers. Cover partially and simmer for 2 hours.
Add the carrots, celery, and onion to the pot. Cover partially and simmer for 1 hour. Add the chicken and press to submerge until the broth. Simmer, partially covered, for about 1 1/2 hours or until the chicken is very tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If desired, serve a bowl of the broth for a first course. Remove and discard the bay leaves.
Remove the beef and chicken to a cutting board that has a well to catch the broth. Break into small pieces. The meat will be very tender. Transfer to plates. Surround with vegetables. Garnish with parsley if desired. Ladle on just a bit of the broth to moisten. Serve with salsa verde or mostarda di frutta on the side.
Makes 1 cup
2 cups packed parsley leaves
1/2 cup packed soft Italian bread crumbs without crust
1/4 cup drained capers in brine or soaked and rinsed salted capers
1 salted or canned-in-olive oil anchovy, filleted (note)
2 small cloves garlic
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine the parsley, bread crumbs, capers, anchovies, garlic, mustard and vinegar. Process until finely chopped. With the machine running, drizzle in the oil through the feed tube until smooth. Season with salt to taste. Refrigerate in a covered container.
For salted anchovy, rinse well under cold running water. Place in a small dish and cover with milk. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours. Remove from the milk, rinse and pat dry before using.
For anchovy in oil, pat dry before using.