Crostini and Spiedini Palermitani  

Crostini e Spitini Palermitani 

 

Crostino is a slice of bread roasted or fried, covered with butter, marmalade, sauce or other ingredients.  

 

It differs from bruschetta, which is a slice of bread, bruscato, meaning burned over coal, rubbed with garlic, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with cheese and salt and pepper or served with additional condiments like tomatoes, beans, eggplants, roasted peppers, cheeses, cured meats, etc. 

 

Crostini or bruschette are served as hors d’oeuvres, appetizers in all Italian regions, and the local ingredients used, produce a variety of creations with different tastes and original characteristics. 

 

The Crostini and Spitini Palermitani are an unusual, delicious and unique hors d’oeuvre. In Palermo, they are called “street food,” because they used to be sold by street vendors; now the crostini and spiedini are served in bars, coffee shops or tavole calde, the equivalent of snack bars, which are located on every street corner.  

The crostino consists of two pieces of pan carre’, which is white bread, stuffed with béchamel, cheese and prosciutto cotto; the spitino, is also made with two pieces of pan carre’ and stuffed with béchamel, meat sauce and peas. Both specialties are breaded and fried, resulting in a crunchy outside and a soft and pleasant inside. 

 

Spiedino or Crostino

 

The béchamel is spiced with nutmeg; the sweet prosciutto cotto provides the fragrance of rosemary and sage; the meat stuffing is scented with cloves; the fried breadcrumbs that envelope the crostini add more aroma and have an addictive taste. 

 

Prosciutto cotto (Italian roasted ham) must be used in this preparation. Prosciutto cotto is different from smoked ham. In fact, prosciutto cotto is not smoked; it is slowly cooked and seasoned with rosemary and sage, and it is available in first-class groceries like Fairway Market, Dean and Deluca in the NY Metropolitan area, Whole Foods Markets and other supermarkets all over the U.S.A. 

 

Ingredients  

The Béchamel 

  • 2 oz salted butter (½ stick) 
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
  • 2 ½ cups whole milk 
  • Pinch of salt 
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste 

 

For The Crostini 

  • ½ lb sliced prosciutto cotto, chopped into small pieces 
  • ¼ cup of a mild cheese, grated or shredded 
  • 8 slices white bread, whole wheat or sandwich bread 

 

For the Spiedini 

  •  1 tbsp olive oil 
  •  ½ medium onion, diced 
  •  ½ lb chopped meat 
  •  ¼ cup white wine 
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste 
  • 2 cloves 
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • 2 basil leaves, chopped 
  • 2 oz frozen peas (boiled in salted water for 5 minutes) 
  • ¼ lb diced or grated Caciocavallo or your preferred cheese (optional) 
  • Salt and pepper 
  • 8 slices white bread, whole wheat or sandwich bread 

 

For Frying 

  • 1 tablespoon flour 
  • ½ cup milk 
  • 3 large eggs 
  • 1 lb sifted fine Italian breadcrumbs 
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
  • Oil for frying (preferably peanut oil) 

 

 

Preparation 

 

The Béchamel 

In a heavy saucepan, at low heat, melt the butter. Add in the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until well homogenized. At the same time, heat the milk in a separate pot.
 

Increase the heat to medium and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly, without letting the mixture stick to the bottom or become brown. Start to add the milk a little at a time, stirring with a wire whisk.
 

Continue cooking over low heat until it thickens without lumps and there is no taste of raw flour, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. 

 

The Crostini 

 

As the béchamel cools off, mix in the diced prosciutto and the grated cheese. Set the béchamel on the side until it cools off and thickens. 

 

Place 4 slices of bread on the working table and spread each slice with 1 heaping tablespoon of the mix of béchamel and prosciutto, leaving a small margin unfilled at the edges of the bread. Cover each slice with another slice of bread and pinch the borders to seal. 

 

You can leave the crostini whole to serve as a snack or cut diagonally in half to serve as appetizer. Smooth out the edges with a spatula and remove any excess béchamel. Place into a dish and set aside to dry, until ready to fry them.

 

The Spitini 

 

Making the Stuffing  

To prepare a day ahead.

Over medium-high heat, in a 4-quart heavy saucepan, combine 1 tablespoon of olive oil with ½ small diced onion and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add ½ lb of ground beef, stirring continuously until it begins to brown. Pour in ¼ cup of white wine and use a wooden spoon to mash any clumps of meat. Add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste diluted into ½ cup of water; stir it into the meat a little at a time. Add additional water just to cover the chopped meat; add basil and salt and pepper to taste.
Cook for a few minutes and add 1 bay leaf and 2 cloves.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, stirring occasionally; simmer for ½ hour or until liquid evaporates and it becomes thick. Add boiled peas and cook sauce for an additional 15 minutes.

Let it rest a few minutes, remove cloves and bay leaf, adjust for salt and skim off any excess oil or fat. Keep refrigerated overnight and, when ready to use, mix in some pecorino or parmesan cheese shaved with a vegetable peeler.

 

The Spiedini 

As the béchamel cools off, mix in the grated cheese. Set the béchamel on the side until it cools off and thickens. 

 

Place 8 slices of bread on the working table and spread each slice with ½ tablespoon of béchamel, leaving a small margin unfilled at the edges. Place 1 tablespoon of meat sauce on 4 of the slices and cover each with a slice of the bread with the béchamel; pinch the borders to seal. 

 

You can leave the spitini whole to serve as a snack or cut diagonally in half to serve as appetizer. Smooth out the edges with a spatula and remove any excess. Place into a dish and set aside to dry.  

 

***** 

The Breading 

An old practice of breading the crostini and the spiedini twice is now skipped by many people in order to make the crostini lighter. 

In a wide bowl, mix ½ cup of milk, 1 tablespoon of flour and a pinch of salt and whisk until there are no lumps; add the eggs and beat until smooth. 

In a shallow dish, combine breadcrumbs and a pinch of salt.

 

Dredge each crostino or spitino into the egg mixture and transfer into the container with the breadcrumbs. Gently press the breadcrumbs into the crostino. 

 If you choose to bread the crostini and spitini twice, repeat the breading by dipping each crostino into the eggs and breadcrumbs again. Set on a pan or dish. Once all crostini have been battered and breaded, carry on with frying them.

 

The Frying 

Over a medium heat, in a 12-inch skillet, heat ¾ cup of oil. Before the oil reaches 400 degrees, lay 2 whole (or 4 halves) crostini or spiedini into the skillet one at a time. Fry until light golden brown on one side and then turn, about 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Let rest on paper towels. Continue frying and add oil as needed.