Bollito misto traditionally includes seven different cuts, including calf's head, oxtail and tongue. You can, however, consider any of those elements optional. Every chef uses a slightly different selection of meats for his or her bollito.
New York chef Michael White, who spent years in Emilia-Romagna, makes his with beef short ribs and boneless veal breast in a recipe from his book "Classico e Moderno: Essential Italian Cooking." The late cookbook writer Marcella Hazan, who was from Bologna, made hers with beef brisket, veal breast and tongue. Mario Batali favors brisket too but adds beef cheeks and veal shank, and, instead of a hen, goes for a capon.
My friends and I skew to the adventurous side, and I've made my bollito with just about every cut except the calf's head. Note that outside of the holiday season, cotechino sausage can be difficult to find, so you can substitute another fatty, flavorful sausage, such as sweet Italian. I even used weisswurst once.
The trick to cooking bollito misto is to pull each cut of meat from the simmering pot as soon as it's perfectly cooked. Some cuts will take a couple of hours, others, like the tongue or the chicken, about an hour. Pressed for time? You can do most of the cooking the day before and reheat the sliced meats in a little broth just before the meal.
Each of the meats adds its own particular savor. Pick and choose what you like.
Calf's head: Makes a rich broth.
Calf's tongue: Subtle flavor and velvety texture.
Beef brisket: Beefy goodness.
Beef short ribs: Rich flavor.
Oxtail: Flavors the broth.
Calf's foot: Gives the broth a rich, gelatinous texture.
Stewing hen: Offers some contrast to the beef.
Cotechino sausage: Prized for its sweet, fatty pork taste.
And if you're ever in Piedmont, you can find Ristorante Moderno at Via della Misericordia 12, in Carrù, http://www.ristorantemoderno.net. Other spots for bollito misto in the town include Osteria del Borgo, Vascello d'Oro and Ristorante Al Bue Grasso.