In my pre-child days, I would frequently spend hours and hours on involved cooking projects. It’s rare these days that I embark on super-involved recipes, but my friend Dan and I have been going back and forth for many weeks now discussing traditional Italian Zampone. We decided to block off an afternoon on New Years and make it happen!
Before you yell at me in the comments, Dan and I felt very comfortable cooking around each other. He is an ER doctor and has been vaccinated against COVID. His family also had a negative test the day before we did this cooking project and his kids are in daycare with my kids. All-in-all, a pretty safe hang as I see it.
Okay – back to the Zampone!
What is Zampone?
A Zampone is a pig trotter (hoof) that has been stuffed with sausage. Traditionally, it can be cured or poached. We went the poaching route because it was easier and also we wanted to cook lentils with it which is traditional for serving.
Step one though… Finding Trotters!
A Trotter Search
To be honest, I had zero luck here. My friend ended up finding them and ordering them through a butcher that tends to provide only to high-end restaurants.
Ironically, especially in America, finding the trotters can be the hardest part of this recipe! You will almost certainly have to call around to different butchers and possibly order them well in advance.
But hey. We found a few trotters after all!
Making the Sausage for the Zampone
In theory any sausage could be used here, but Dan recalled that zampone has a pretty particular spice flavor to it and also a certain texture.
This called for a homemade sausage mix! Most of the recipes we found not only used pork butt as a base but also included pork skin in the sausage. This was kind of wild, but we were too deep to turn back now!
The only key to adding skin to the sausage is to make sure you boil it first so it softens up. We did a fine grind on everything.
I’m not going to repost a recipe for this because, honestly, I feel like we just vaguely understood what we were doing here.
But, I’ll tell you that the sausage filling we ended up using was this recipe. We doubled the garlic and also used all pork butt instead of a pork jowl and pork butt combo.
Prepping the Trotters
Our trotters came with one downside: They had pretty large cuts down the sides. This wouldn’t be a problem if we were using these in soup or something, but we wanted to stuff these.
If I were going solo here I would’ve just wrapped them tightly with butcher twine and called it a day, but being with an ER doc he ran next door and got his surgical kit for sutures. A few stitches later and we were ready to go!
We were ready to stuff the trotters!
At this point (maybe it was the Lambrusco we were drinking) we were feeling fairly confident.
Once we stuffed our trotters as full as we could, we had about half of the sausage mixture left over which we vacuum sealed for later (turns out it makes good breakfast sausage).
Then we used butcher twine to seal up our strange creations.
Cooking the Zampone
The original recipes say to poach the zampone but we went the sous-vide route so we had a little more control on temperature. We wanted them to hit 170˚F so we cooked them at 185˚F for about two hours and it was a success.
We let the zampone cool before slicing and I was surprised how well it all held together.
Serving the Zampone
Traditionally, zampone is served with lentils that you cook in the poaching water. This was easy enough and quite honestly the lentils ended up being a star of the meal.
We also both came to the conclusion that the texture on the zampone wasn’t great so we sliced it thin and let it crisp up on my griddle for a few minutes. That drastically improved it.
Ultimately we didn’t really eat the trotter casing. It was too chewy, but the sausage was delicious and the presentation was definitely a thing to behold!
I doubt that very many people will try this recipe, but I like the spirit of it more than the recipe itself.
Quite honestly, I was surprised we were able to make this and it turned out halfway decent.
If you have some ambitious dish that you’ve been noodling, try to make it happen in 2021!