CASSOEULA

I was served this in the home of a family friend in the small town outside Milan called Gallarate.   It was hearty, rich and far more delicious than the ingredients may lead you to believe.  I was given the recipe at the time however lost the palm pilot (yes way back then) in which it was stored, later on the same trip.  For years I hunted around for a recipe and made it again recently for my father’s birthday (he loves rustic italian food).  This first recipe is reasonably complicated – my understanding is that this is a soup/stew which is more a case of use-what-you-can-find rather than hunting for exactly the right thing.  The second recipe is a simpler version.

It’s a classic Milanese winter dish, a thick, hearty pork, sausage, and cabbage soup that is, according to Antonio Piccinardi, common throughout the areas once inhabited by the Celts. In other words, one can find similar things in France and Spain.   He says there’s considerable variation from cook to cook, with some believing in tomato and others not, and some preferring to eat it fresh off the stove, while others prefer to wait a day and reheat it.  Alessandro Pradelli, who gives a recipe, suggests that you use black German-style bread if you don’t have polenta.

INGREDIENTS

 1 1/3 pounds (600 g) spare ribs, cut into shorter lengths by the butcher 
 10 ounces (250 g) Luganega sausage 
 4 ounces (100 g) fresh pork rinds 
 A pig’s trotter 
 A pig’s ear (available in an oriental market if nowhere else) 
 2 Salamin de Verz (tiny sausages made with the same filling used for Luganega) 
 2 1/4 pounds (1 k) Savoy cabbage 
 8 ounces (200 g) celery, sliced 
 8 ounces (200 g) carrots, sliced 
 An onion, minced 
 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 
 1 tablespoon olive oil 
 Dry white wine 
 1 tablespoon tomato sauce 
 Broth 
 Salt and pepper 
 

DIRECTIONS

Wash the cabbage well, coarsely shred it, and heat it in a pot with the water trapped on the leaves to wilt it, taking care lest the leaves in the bottom of the pot stick and burn.
Flame the trotter, ear, and rinds to remove any hairs they may still have, and wipe them clean with a cloth. Split the trotter, using a cleaver if necessary, and cut the ear and rinds into strips.
Boil them in lightly salted water for an hour, by which point the fat will be rendered out of them. While they’re cooking, mince the onion and sauté it in the oil and butter. When it has browned, add the ribs, then the Luganega, cut into rounds, and the salamin; brown them lightly, and then sprinkle with white wine and cook over a moderate flame until the liquid is evaporated. Remove the meat from the pot, and add the carrots and celery, together with the tomato sauce diluted in a little water. Season with salt and pepper, cover, and cook until the vegetables are done, stirring occasionally. Add the shredded cabbage, and lay the meat over it. Shake the pot just a bit to allow some of the cooking liquid to appear, cover, and simmer for an hour or more, using a spoon to skim off the fat that rises to the surface every now and again.
Serve it steaming hot, with polenta or dark bread.

VERSION 2

1 pig’s foot
2 Tbs.olive oil
2 oz. butter
1 diced onion
1 lb. pork sausage
1 lb. pork ribs
1 lb. pork skin
1 lb. diced carrots
1 lb. diced celery
3 diced tomatoes
3 Ibs. Savoy cabbage
salt, pepper .   

Boil the pig’s foot and cut in two, lengthwise for 30 minutes.
In the clay pot make a soffritto with oil and butter and chopped onion.
Place the pot in a cold oven at 400F.
Add the pork meats, cut into pieces, and the pig’s foot.
When the meat is golden brown, add all diced carrots, celery and  tomatoes.
Cook for 30 minutes, add the cabbage, cut into strips.
Salt and pepper to taste and cook for 45 additional minutes. 
The cooking liquid should be rather dense.
If you wish to remove some of the fat from the cassoeula, do so before adding the cabbage.  
VARIATION: Cassoeula is a Lombardian dish which has several versions.
Sometimes, after the meats have been browned, a spoonful of tomato paste is added.
Other cooks prefer to cook the cabbage in a separate pot, steaming it in the water remaining on the leaves after washing, and then adding it to the meat. The quality of the meat added to the cassoeula varies. The simplest version requires only ribs and sausages, while the most complicated includes the ears and tail. Polenta is the traditional accompaniment to cassoeula. 

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