I have also tried making these in the oven and I can confirm they come out very, very well this way if you do not feel like frying – and I am always sceptical of baking things that should be fried.
These delicious discs of fried creamy cheese are irresistible. I read about these cicchetti in Mariù Salvatori de Zuliani’s Venetian book and couldn’t resist the sound of them: a sort of thick béchamel enriched with cheese and left to cool before cutting out rounds that are crumbed and fried.
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1½ tbsp plain (all-purpose) flour
- 250 ml (8½ fl oz/1 cup) full-cream (whole) milk
- 3 eggs
- 200 g (7 oz) provola cheese, or another good melting cheese, diced or shredded
- 80 g (2¾ oz) dry breadcrumbs
- vegetable oil, for frying
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
You will need to allow time for the rounds to cool before crumbing and frying.
- In a small saucepan, melt the butter over a low heat. Add the flour and a splash of the milk and stir it in with a wooden spoon until you have a thick but smooth paste.
- Beat two of the eggs with the rest of the milk and slowly add this to the pot while stirring. Add the cheese and stir until it is all melted together and smooth. Pour onto a greased baking tray approximately 20 × 30 cm (8 in × 12 in) in size (like something you might bake a lasagne in) and allow to cool.
- Cut out small circles with a shot glass or cookie cutter – with any excess, you can melt it back together and keep cutting it out. Alternatively, simply cut into small squares, about 5 × 5 cm (2 × 2 in) and you will have exactly 24 squares ready for frying.
- In a small bowl, beat the last egg, and in another small, shallow bowl, place the breadcrumbs. Dip each cheese round first into the egg and then in breadcrumbs and place on a plate or tray until they are all crumbed.
- Heat enough vegetable oil in a wide pan so that there is at least 1 cm ( ½ in) oil and fry over a medium heat on both sides until golden brown, about 2 minutes total.
- If you choose to try baking this in the oven instead of frying, place the crumbed rounds of cheese on a baking tray lined with baking paper, drizzle with olive oil and bake at 190°C (375°F) for about 10 minutes, or until puffed and golden. Leftovers are also delicious reheated in the oven until melty.
This is an edited extract from Cinnamon & Salt by Emiko Davies (Hardie Grant Books, RRP $40). Available in stores nationally.