Braciolette di Melanzane Ripieni
Region: Italy, Sicily
Difficulty: Labor Intensive
Slices of eggplant stuffed with moistened fresh bread crumbs, basil, garlic, and parsley are rolled up carefully and wrapped in thin slices of pancetta before grilling. These braciolette are the perfect accompaniment to grilled lamb or chicken. Make sure that you do not boil the eggplants too much, otherwise they will disintegrate when you try to roll them. When skewering, make sure that the pancetta is skewered too, so it doesn't droop down into the fire.
[photo: Dennis M. Gottlieb, in Clifford A. Wright, Grill Italian]
Yield: Makes 4 to 6 servings
Preparation Time: 1:15 hours
1 large eggplant (about 2 pounds), cut lengthwise into 9 slices from the center, 1/4 inch thick
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups small bread cubes, white part only
1/2 cup milk
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
9 thin slices pancetta (about 1/3 pound)Eight 8- to 10-inch wooden skewers
1. Prepare a medium-hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill for 15 minutes on medium.
2. Drop the eggplant slices into a large saucepan of rapidly boiling water. Remove and drain as soon as the slices are soft, about 2 minutes. Dry well on paper towels. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
3. Moisten the bread in the milk and then squeeze dry. Put the bread in a mixing bowl and stir in the garlic, basil, and parsley. Season with salt and add the olive oil. Knead well.
4. Lay a slice of eggplant on a work surface. Put a heaping tablespoon of stuffing in the center and roll the eggplant up. You must roll them up slowly and carefully, pressing any stuffing escaping back in. Wrap each eggplant roll-up in a slice of pancetta. Secure with a toothpick if necessary.
5. Double skewer all the ingredients: hold 2 skewers parallel to each other about 1/2 inch apart between your thumb and forefinger. Slide the wrapped eggplant roll-up onto the skewer, making sure you skewer the overlapping end of the eggplant and the pancetta. Put only 2 eggplant roll-ups on each set of double skewers (and 3 on the last set).
6. Place the roll-ups on the grill and cook, watching for flare-ups from the pancetta fat, for 15 minutes. Turn carefully and continue grilling until the pancetta has crispy edges and the eggplant is golden, about another 15 minutes. Move the roll-ups to a cooler part of the grill if they are cooking too fast.