January is National Soup Month and I have been celebrating in style, and passing my favorite recipes along to you. And what could be better with a bowl of soup than a grilled cheese sandwich of some sort. Now, I will readily admit to being a fan of the individually wrapped cheese slice on white bread version, but it is occasionally nice to step out of the ordinary. So here’s an Italian version of the grilled cheese. Mozzarella in Carrozza, which literally means “cheese in a carriage,” the carriage being the crispy carapace of egg around the sandwich. It’s rich, gooey on the inside and crispy on the outside – everything a grilled cheese should be. It may be a little bit more involved to make, but the pay-off is well worth it. Try it with a bowl of Roasted Vegetable Stracciatella for a true Italian feel.
This has to be made with fresh mozzarella cheese, which is so readily available now, not the pre-grated “pizza cheese.” I’ve tried lots of versions of this, but eventually realized that grating the cheese gives you a better melt than slices, which is the traditional method. And the mozzarella needs lots of salt and good grinding of pepper to bring out the flavor.
Mozzarella in Carrozza
Half a sandwich with a bowl of soup can be enough for one person, but feel free to increase the recipe as you like.
1 8-ounce ball fresh mozzarella cheese
4 slices firm white sandwich bread
Salt and freshly ground pepper
½ cup milk
4 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
Grate the cheese on the wide holes of a box grater. At some point this process really becomes just pushing the cheese through the holes as the cheese comes apart, but do your best. Remove the crusts from the sandwich bread and place the cheese over two slices. Leave a small margin around the edge of the bread. Generously season the cheese with salt and pepper. Place the top slices of bread over the sandwiches, the press the edges together to seal.
Place a wide bowl and two small flat plates on the counter. Pour the milk in the bowl, beat the egg in one plate, and place the flour in the second. Coat the bottom of a frying pan with olive oil and heat over medium heat.
Dip the first sandwich in the milk, turning to coat both sides and the edges, then dip the sandwich into the flour to coat both sides. Shake the sandwich to loosen any excess flour, then dip in the egg, turning to coat both sides. Fry the sandwich in the hot oil until crispy and brown and melty, turning to cook both sides. Repeat with the remaining sandwich. Let the cooked sandwiches sit for about a minute, then slice into halves and serve.
Serves 2 – 4