- 2 1/4 pounds beef — the cut used in Italy is shoulder; James Beard suggests beef brisket
- 2 1/4 pounds neck or breast of veal
- 1 1/4 pounds calf’s head (though required by tradition, this is becoming difficult to find; should you choose not to include it, increase the beef and veal, or add a pound of lean pork instead)
- A veal’s tongue, weighing 1 1/4 pounds
- A chicken, weighing about 2 1/4 pounds
- A cotechino weighing about 3/4 pound (a cotechino is a pork sausage, available in Italian delicatessens; you can also use a zampone, which is a stuffed pig’s trotter)
- 2 carrots
- 3 ribs celery
- 2 onions, stuck with 2 cloves each
How to make the Bollito misto:
Fill a large pot with water sufficient to cover the meat. Lightly salt the water, add the vegetables, set the pot on the fire. Since you want the flavor to remain in the meat, wait until the water comes to a boil before adding the beef (the heat will seal in its juices). Reduce the flame to a simmer, and after about an hour, add the breast of veal, chicken, and calf’s head (should you prefer not to use it, increase the quantities of beef and veal, or add a pound of lean pork — this isn’t Piedmontse, but the emilians do it.)
In the meantime, set a second pot of lightly salted water on the fire, bring it to a boil, and begin simmering the tongue when you add the veal and chicken to the beef. If you are using a fresh cotechino or zampone set it in a pot of cold lightly salted water at this time (prick the cotechino all over, or loosen the string of the zampone first) and begin simmering it. If you instead buy precooked sausage, follow the instructions on the package.
The meats will be done when they are fork-tender, this will take about an hour or slightly more from when you add the veal and the chicken to the beef. Come serving time, the meats should be arranged on a heated platter, sprinkled with a ladle of hot broth, and carved at the table (cut the tongue and the cotechino or zampone, into 1/2-inch slices).
It sounds terribly obvious, and it is. However, in the last century Crown Prince Vittorio Emanuele and his friends would sneak off to Moncalvo, a town far from the stifling air of the Court in Torino, to enjoy a rich, flavorful bollito misto: seven kinds of meat, seven vegetables, and seven condiments.
Though seven kinds of meat may seem like a lot, the variety is important because each compliments the others, producing a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. You should include beef, veal, pork, chicken, tongue, zampone or cotechino, and feel free to add whatever other cuts of meat you feel might work. The pieces should be from older animals, because they will be more flavorful, and should also be large – this means that a good bollito misto is ideal for a convivial meal with friends, or for when you want to make something that will provide the wherewithal for several meals. In terms of cooking technique, preparing a bollito misto is straight forward: Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil and add the beef, veal, chicken and vegetables (the hot water seals the meat; see below for timing).
To prepare the bollito misto, boil, separately, the tongue and zampone or cotechino, assuming you choose to include them.