Chef Franco Dunn of One World Sausage, which is sold at local farmers markets, calls himself a sausage anthropologist. He uses the web to reach out to sausage makers around the world to uncover authentic traditional recipes, which he then duplicates in his kitchen.
This means, in part, that you won't find the same sausages week after week. If you are dazzled by, say, his Andalusian Chorizo, there's no telling when it may be available again. This makes it an adventure for both Dunn and his loyal customers, though sometimes you have to wait a while for a favorite sausage to return.
Such was the case last winter with Dunn's extraordinary cotechino.
Cotechino is a long, fat, pork sausage that is traditionally poached and served with lentils or in bollito misto with salsa verde. It has just the bone-warming richness we want in the coldest, darkest days of winter.
And now we have it. Dunn will make it week after week through February. A single cotechino is $12 and easily serves four. It is available at the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market in Santa Rosa on Wednesday and Saturday and at the Sebastopol Farmers Market on Sunday.
For cotechino recipes from the Seasonal Pantry archives, visit this column's companion blog, "Eat This Now" at pantry.pressdemocrat.com, where I will also post instructions on making perfect poached eggs and how to poach a cotechino neat.
Faced with a single cotechino and five dinner guests, I decided to make a lentil risotto, which would honor the tradition of cotechino and lentils but rise above its humble warmth. I served Lacinato kale braised with bacon and Algerian carrots alongside. Dinner was a big hit.
Cotechino with Lentil Risotto and Salsa Verde
Makes 4 to 6 servings
2/3cup French lentils, rinsed
1small onion, quartered
—Black pepper in a mill
1cotechino, about 10 to 12 ounces
—Simple Salsa Verde (recipe follows)
3 to 4cups chicken stock, preferably homemade, hot
2tablespoons olive oil
2cups Vialone Nano, Carnaroli or Arborio rice
4ounces Weirauch Saint Rose, Vella Dry Jack or Valley Ford Estero cheese, grated
Put the lentils into a pressure cooker, add the onion, about a teaspoon of kosher salt, the bay leaf, several turns of black pepper and the cotechino. Pour in enough water to cover the lentils by about 2 inches and submerge the cotechino.
Set over a high flame. When the water boils, decrease the heat and lock the lid in place. Cook at high power for 20 minutes, remove from the heat and let the pressure release naturally.
Meanwhile, make the salsa verde, if you have not already done so.
Unlock the lid of the pressure cooker, use tongs to transfer the cotechino to a cutting board or plate and remove and discard the onion quarters and the bay leaf.
Strain the lentils, reserving the cooking liquid in a clean pot. Set the lentils aside and add the chicken stock to the cooking liquid, along with enough water to make about 8 cups. Set over medium-low heat.
Snip the cotechino string and slice it into equal slices, allowing 2 or 3 slices per serving. Set the cotechino in a saute pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Cover and set aside.