Sunday, January 30, 2011

Super Bowl Snacks, Part 1

Fig.1. Mozzarella in carrozza is Italy's version of grilled cheese. Make sure you use a soft mozzarella to ensure the ooey gooey texture seen above.

The Superbowl is coming up next Sunday, I'm hosting, and I couldn’t be more excited. Yes I’m happy the Packers have made it till the end, but I get more exited with thoughts of food: specifically, with having to plan and conjure up the salty, meaty morsels usually associated with testosterone, sports-and-beer oriented, snack foods. Again, I look to Italy, but rather than look into Nonna’s kitchen or some fancy trattoria in Rome, I look to the streets of Italy.
Italian street food is nothing new, in fact, what we today refer to as fast food existed during the reign of the Caesars in the form of urban street food. Street vendors in ancient Rome fried offal and grilled fish for busy Romans on the run. Today, gnocci fritti can be bought in the towns of Emilia, porchetta panini everywhere in Lazio, and grilled fish can be eaten late at night in the streets of coastal Sicily.

Mozzarella in Carrozza

Mozzarella in carrozza, (Italy’s version of a grilled cheese sandwich, but more like French toast with cheese) is available in most bars and tavoli caldi in Italy. This is the basic version. I've seen it done with all manners of sliced cured meat, and even with a slice of tomato (when they're in season of course) Many Italians also pour tomato sauce over the sandwich, which is quite nice but then requires the use of utensils. Italians refer to the bread used as, pain carrĂ©, and while any soft, sliced bread can be used, I like to by a fresh loaf and cut it myself so I can control the thickness. It’s also the perfect dish to make during halftime, just make sure your wife prepares your mise-en-place during the last 5 minutes of the second half.

Fig.2. Stack'em high and eat your troubles away; just don't make a habit of it.

Serves 4

Olive oil, for frying
8 slices of soft white bread, cut thick, crusts removed.
Soft mozzarella (I like to use Mozzarina Mediterraneo by Saputo, but any mozzarella in brine will do, just make sure you drain it properly)
3 eggs
1/3 cup of milk
salt and pepper
flour, for dredging


In a pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat, the oil should reach a ½” up the side of the pan. Assemble your sandwiches by placing a piece of cheese on the bread followed by the top bread. While this might seem obvious, it’s important that the cheese not pass the bread, otherwise the exposed cheese will melt too quickly in the hot oil. Whisk the eggs and the milk until smooth, season with salt and pepper. Using the palm of your hand, press the sandwich down, it’s important that the bread be fresh and soft. Dredge the sandwiches in the flour, making sure you cover all four edges as well as both sides. Shake any excess flour off the bread and dip the sandwiches in the egg mixture. Place in the hot oil, (make sure your oil is not too hot, you can test the oil by dipping a piece of the removed crust in the egg and dropping it in the oil, when it bubbles and fries evenly, the oil is good to go)
Fry until golden brown on both sides and serve immediately.
Recipe can be doubled.

Visual Aides

Fig.3. It's worth going to a bakery and getting a fresh loaf.

Fig.4. Crusts cut off for this grilled cheese. Also, feel free to add other vegetables or animal products to your sandwich. Just make sure whatever you use stays in the center of the bread and that your cheese be not completely covered otherwise the sandwich will not hold when the cheese melts. The peperoni is my sons, while the anchovy fillets are mine.

Fig.5. Press down the bread making sure the outer edges of both pieces touch.

Fig.6. Dredge the sandwiches properly, edges and sides. shake off any excess.

Fig.7. Drown your sandwich in the egg mixture.

Fig.8. Fry sandwiches until hot. Make sure your oil is hot but not too hot (see directions for more information.)

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