Zampone con Lenticchie
Region: Italy, Emilia-Romagna
Difficulty: Easy but long cooking time
Zampone is stuffed pig’s trotter. The foot and shin are boned and stuffed with ground pork snout and other ingredients. Zampone is traditionally eaten in Modena on New Year’s Eve. Carol Field tells us in her book Celebrating Italy that the lentils represent money and the sausage stuffing the container that will hold it. Pork is one of the pillars of Emilian cuisine and all kinds of pork products are made there. In Zibello, culatello, a cured pork rump, is made, while Bologna offers its famous mortadella, and Langhirano makes a cured ham. The other pillars of the cuisine are pasta, especially tortellini, and rich bodied, full-flavored sauces.
The origin of zampone is often told as in the following apocrypha: During Pope Julius II’s siege of Mirandola in the winter of 1511, the town’s people were on the point of starvation and began to use every last piece of a slaughtered pig and invented zampone. Others are not so sure and suggest its invention in the eighteenth century, or nineteenth century, by a charcutier from Modena.
Luckily, zampone is made around Christmas in the U.S. and sold in Italian markets which is where you should look first. If that fails one company that makes an excellent zampone is sold, usually seasonally, at http://buonitalia.com. They freeze very well and can be made later.
Green lentils can be found in Indian markets. Brown lentils will do fine. Commercially packaged lentils today rarely need soaking. Less than an hour of cooking should do it. Some Emilians make a salsa verde, with walnuts, garlic, and lots of parsley, to accompany zampone.
Yield: Makes 6 to 8 servings
Preparation Time: 5 hours in all
1. Prick the zampone all over with a couple of corncob holders or toothpicks, and wrap tightly in a double thickness of cheesecloth. Tie off with kitchen twine. Place the zampone in a large pot or casserole on its side and cover by 4 inches of cold water. Bring the water to a boil slowly, about 45 minutes to 1 hour, then simmer another 4 hours (or about 1 hour per pound of zampone, which run anywhere from 2 to 4 pounds). Add boiling water as needed to keep the zampone covered.
2. Meanwhile, place the lentils in a casserole with the 2 quarts water, the whole onion, celery stalk halves, and salt. Turn the heat to medium-high and when it begins to bubble, cook for 15 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the age of the lentils. Taste occasionally, and turn the heat off and drain the lentils when they are between al dente and tender and set aside. Discard the onion and celery.
3. In a medium-size saucepan, heat the olive oil with the prosciutto fat over medium heat and cook 3 to 4 minutes, stirring. Add the chopped onion and chopped celery and cook until golden, about 8 minutes, stirring.
4. Add the lentils to the sautéed onion and prosciutto fat along with 1 1/2 cups water from the cooking zampone. Simmer the lentils until the water is absorbed. If you have accidently overcooked the lentils so they are already soft, do not pour in the water, simply stir the lentils until well combined.
5. Arrange the lentils on a platter. Remove, drain, and untie the zampone. Cut it into slices as thick as a finger and arrange on top of the lentils, slightly overlapping them.