2 Servings (2 Skewers Each)
I guess by now you know that Rome is my hometown. However, it’s not my father’s. He was born and raised in Messina, a town in Sicily, and moved to Rome in his late twenties. Every summer, we used to go to my grandparents’ beach house in Sicily and spend some time with them. Oh, I know what you are thinking: here we go – another story about Italian happy families and fairy-tale memories. Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you – or is that a sigh of relief? The simple truth is… my mother and my grandmother hated each other. Have you ever read a novel called “The Two Mrs. Grenvilles”? Not an intellectual masterpiece but very entertaining: the feud between the mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law in the book reminds me a little the one that was going on in that Sicilian beach house. I say a little because, luckily, my story (as opposed to the one in the book) did not end with a murder 😉 Ah, I know once again what you are thinking: what has this got to do with food? Bear with me just a tad longer, will you?
So, my grandmother happened to be a very good cook and… no, she didn’t teach me how to cook. Growing up, I was a bitchy, moody, ambitious, career-focused girl who couldn’t care less about learning how to cook. The good food kept coming and that was more than enough for me. No questions asked. When my grandmother died, the only thing that I was able to make on the stove was… boiling water.
But then, time went by and my priorities changed. One day, while I was cooking, I suddenly realized that I could not recreate any of my grandmother’s tasty dishes.I felt such a deep sadness, you know, the same you feel when you lose something precious that cannot be replaced. What to do? Not ask my mom. Even now, after all these years, when my grandmother’s name is mentioned, her face turns blue. I knew she was not going to be of any help. Much to my surprise, my father was the one who came to the rescue. I say that because we are talking about an old-fashioned man who thinks that little elves live in his house and take care of cleaning it, cooking his meals and ironing his clothes. He is so spoiled and used to being “attended to” that he doesn’t even make the effort to put his dirty plate in the sink. Well, not only did he remember my grandmother’s recipes, but he even knew the right quantities for the various ingredients and the directions to make them. Who would have thought!
So to make a long story short, the following recipe (as well as all other Sicilian recipes that are yet to come) derive from my father.
1 lb veal cutlets
½ cup plain bread crumbs
3 Tbsp grated Parmigiano cheese
½ cup parsley leaves
½ white scamorza cheese or plastic-wrapped mozzarella cheese
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 big garlic clove, finely minced (optional)
ground black pepper
On a cutting board, place one cutlet between two pieces of parchment paper. With the smooth side of a tenderizer, start pounding the meat until it gets thin and the meat fibers have softened (be careful not to break the meat). Remove the parchment paper from the meat. Make sure that the cutlet has been evenly flattened and, if some part of it is still too thick, pound it more with the tenderizer. Cut the cutlet into strips, about 3-inch wide and 5-inch long. Repeat the same procedure for the other cutlets.
Rinse the parsley leaves with water, dry them with a paper towel and chop them roughly.
The original recipe requires the use of white scamorza cheese. However, if you cannot find it, you can use mozzarella instead – just choose the type that comes in plastic wrap, not the moister type that sits in water. Cut off the scamorza cheese or the mozzarella into cubes (between ½ and ¾ of 1 inch thick). In case you are using moist mozzarella, put the cubes into a strainer, place the strainer above a large bowl and let the mozzarella cubes drain fully.
Pour the olive oil into another plate.
Spread a veal strip out onto a cutting board. Season only one side of the strip with a pinch of salt (not too much, because you put some salt in the crumb mixture already).
Dip only the salted side of the strip into the olive oil and hold it over the oil to let any excess fall back into the plate. Next, dip the same side of the strip into the crumb mixture to evenly coat it.
Return the strip to the cutting board with the breaded side facing up. Take a cheese cube and place it on one of the short sides of the strip. Roll the strip into a small roll (pardon the pun).
Repeat the same procedure for the other strips.
Brush the rolls with extra virgin olive oil and cook them over a preheated grill or a non-stick grill pan. Cook the rolls until tender and golden brown on both sides.
The original recipe calls for a fennel salad with a vinaigrette dressing as a side dish.
Enjoy and let me know how it turned out if you give it a go!