We made this dish at Ristorante Buonavia in the early 1970’s with white bread. Now I find I like the flavor and texture of wheat bread, and I like it even more if the bread is lightly toasted before you put the sandwiches together. Vegetable stock is nice here, it cuts the acidity of the white wine without adding a definitive flavor. If you don’t have vegetable stock, use water or, if you want to add a richer flavor, chicken stock.
- for the skewers
- 16 slices whole-wheat bread, toasted lightly
- 1 ½ pounds, mozzarella di bufala, or any freshly made mozzarella, sliced ¼ inch thick
- 1 quart vegetable oil, or as needed
- 4 large eggs
- ¼ cup milk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Pinch ground black pepper
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- For the Sauce
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 8 anchovy fillets, chopped coarsely
- 3 tablespoons small capers in brine, drained
- 3 tablespoons, fresh lemon juice
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- ¼ cup vegetable stock or water
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees or its lowest setting. Using eight slices of bread for each, make two layered sandwiches alternating bread and mozzarella. Cut and fit the mozzarella slices as necessary to cover the bread more or less evenly. The cheese shouldn’t overhang the bread slices, as the crusts will be trimmed off before cooking. Imagine each sandwich cut into four squares, and place a sturdy wooden skewer through the center or each imaginary square. With a serrated knife, cut off the crust on all four sides, then cut the sandwich into four squares, with a skewer at the center of each square. Press gently as you cut, to make nice, compact sandwiches. Repeat with the other sandwich. You now have eight multilayered sandwiches, each on a skewer.
Pour enough vegetable oil into a wide, deep skillet to fill it by 1 ½ inches. Heat over medium heat until the oil registers 350 degrees on a deep frying thermometer. Line a baking sheet with a double thickness of paper towels and set aside. Meanwhile, in a shallow wide bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, salt and pepper until thoroughly blended.
When the oil comes to temperature, dredge each skewered square in the flour, being sure to coat all sides lightly but well. Working with half the floured skewers at a time, dip them in the egg mixture to coat on all sides. Don’t soak the bread in the egg, just coat it thoroughly. Let some of the excess egg drip back into the bowl, and gently slip the squares into the oil. Fry, turning as necessary with a pair of long tongs, until golden brown on all sides, about 4 minutes. Drain the sandwiches on the paper-towel-lined pan and place in the warm oven. Repeat with the remaining sandwiches.
For the sauce:
Heat the olive oil and garlic in a small skillet over medium heat. Cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the garlic is golden. Stir in the anchovies and cook until they dissolve. Stir in the capers and cook till they sizzle. Pour in the lemon juice, then the white wine. Bring the ingredients to a vigorous boil, add the vegetable stock, and boil until the sauce is lightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the parsley and remove from the heat.
Arrange the hot mozzarella sandwiches on a warm platter or plates and pull the skewers from them. Spoon the sauce over and around the sandwiches and serve.