If I had my choice, instead of sitting down for a 8 course dinner I would rather raid the antipasti table at a restaurant or catering hall. I’m sure some of you have to admit that your favorite part of the wedding reception is the cocktail hour. If we only had two or three hours instead! Not every cocktail hour is created equal. I’m not talking about the ones that had the waiters hand out microwaved egg rolls or meat balls with tooth picks. But the majority of Italian weddings I went to in my life time included some of the best cocktail hours I ever experienced. I’m not just talking carving stations. I’m talking about all the best Italian antipasto you could eat! Full raw bar with all the clams and oysters you can suck down including peeled jumbo shrimp. Baked clams, eggplant rollatini, stuffed peppers, the finest Italian cheese and dried sausages and cured meats money can buy. Trays of tripe (yes, tripe. I could eat that all night), eggplant Parmigiano, olives, roasted red peppers, stuffed artichokes. And the list goes on. By the time I’m through with the cocktail hour I’m ready for a nap. Forget the dinner.
On a trip to Italy I walked past a rolling table in a restaurant that was full of little dishes that held some of the most delicious antipasto I ever saw or tasted. I was just wondering if they served it by the pound of if I had a time limit to dive into it. I took that antipasto table over the meal hands down. One of the items on the table were melanzane in carrozza.
These neat little eggplant sandwiches make a great addition to an antipasto table. This is one way of making them but you are only limited by your imagination. You can stuff these sandwiches (or sangwiches, as we call them in Brooklyn) with any cheese you prefer, including mozzarella or provolone. You can add prosciutto , salami or ham to the filling. Even a slice of roasted pepper. This is the way I had them in Italy.
Melanzane in Carrozza
- 2 medium eggplants
- Kosher salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
- 2 large eggs, beaten with a tablespoon of water
- 2 cups plain bread crumbs
- 1 pound Italian Fontina Cheese*
- 12 fresh sage leaves
- Peanut oil and olive oil for frying
*Fontina cheese is a semi-soft cow’s milk Italian cheese that melts well in these sandwiches.
Leave the skin on the eggplant. Slice the eggplant cross wise into 1/4 inch rounds.
Salt the slices of the eggplant with the kosher salt and place in a colander. Once all the eggplant is cut and salted and placed in the colander, place a plate over the top and cover with a heavy weight, like a cast iron pan. Allow the eggplant to drain that way over a dish for an hour.
Remove the eggplant from the colander and wipe each side dry with a paper towel and place the eggplant on a plate, matching up similar sizes to make the sandwiches.
Cut the Fontina cheese into 1/4 inch slices, making them about the size of the eggplant sandwiches. Wash and dry the fresh sage leaves.
Place a slice of Fontina cheese on top of a slice of eggplant and top with one sage leaf. Cover the sandwich with the matching eggplant slice and set aside. Assemble the rest of the sandwiches with the remaining eggplant, sage leaf and cheese.
Dip your assembled eggplant sandwich first in the flour, coat both sides, then dip in the egg wash both sides, and finally coat in the bread crumbs. Place the sandwich in another dish to dry. Continue with the remainder of the eggplant sandwiches.
Allow the sandwiches to dry for about 15 minutes before frying.
Place about an inch high of peanut oil in a large frying pan. Add to that about 1/4 an inch of olive oil, so you have about 3/4 volume of peanut oil to 1/4 volume of olive oil. Eyeball it, it doesn’t have to be exact. The olive oil is to add flavor.
When the oil reaches 300 degrees, fry the sandwiches about 2 1/2 minutes each side or until they turn golden brown.
Drain on paper towels to absorb extra oil. Wait about 20 minutes before serving. These are best eaten warm. You can sprinkle with some grated Pecorino Romano cheese as well.