Molto Mayhem Excerpt (from Chapter Fifteen)
Lucia knew they had feasted on leftovers that were better than most people would find in the top restaurants back home. Uncle Gianni had shaved cold, leftover steak then layered it with caramelized onions onto open faced slices of Ciabatta. He had put Lucia to work cutting Caciocavallo, a semi-soft, southern Italian cheese which Uncle Gianni told them was named cheese-on-horseback because of the way the two balls of cheese were tied together then hung from a wooden bar to age, like saddlebags on a horse. Sipping at the wine he had used to deglaze the onion, he’d expounded on the pulled cheese’s many virtues, including its ability to handle heat. Lucia had watched as he’d laid the slices over the top of the steak sandwiches and then slid them into the pizza oven.
Recipe for Uncle Gianni’s open-faced Beef and Caramelized Onion Sandwich
One of the key ingredients for this recipe can also be tough to find. Caciocavallo is soft cheese with sharp, spicy flavors of earth and fruit. If you can’t locate caciocavallo cheese, or prefer something more mild, Mozzarella di Bufala (buffalo mozzarella).
- 1/3 lb shaved roast beef (can have deli counter shave for you)
- loaf of ciabatta bread
- 1 to 2 onions (plain yellow are fine)
- Cacciocavallo cheese (or see substitute above)
- 3 TBLS olive oil + extra for bread
- dry white wine (to deglaze, and for the cook to sip)
- pepper and salt to taste
- pinch of sugar
Preheat oven to 400 degree F
Prepare the bread
- Cut loaf crosswise into ½ inch thick slices. Place on baking sheet and paint tops with a small amount of good extra virgin olive oil. Bake in over 3 to 5 minutes to crisp the bread a little. Check to make sure they down over-brown.
Caramelize the onions
- Peel onion. Slice off end, then slice in half lengthwise, through stem. Slice onion across to make long strips. The thicker the slice, the heartier, more rustic, the caramelized onions will be. I like it to be about ¼ in thick.
- Add 3 TBLS olive oil to large sauté pan and heat over high heat until very hot. Add onions and stir. You can also add salt (which will help the onion to release their juices faster), and a pinch of sugar to help bring out the color. Add pepper to taste.
- The onions will begin to brown and may even look burnt on the edges. This is fine, it is what you want them to do.
- If they begin to stick, add a tablespoon or two of wine to deglaze. Stir vigorously to loosen and scrape up the yummy crisp bits from the bottom of the pan.
- Keep cooking, stirring until they all reach the desired color, (brown, dark brown or almost black- the darker the color, the stronger the flavor).
Assemble the Sandwich
- Place a couple of layers of the shaved roast beef onto each bread slice.
- Add a heaping spoon of caramelized onion to each slice.
- Shave or grate the cheese over the top.
- place in still hot oven and bake just until cheese has melted and begins to bubble and brown; about 5 minutes.
Serve with a big salad and glass of Primitivo red wine.
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