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Italian Cheeseburgers and Fries
June 12th, 2009 by

Battuta and potato croquettes.

aka: Battuta and potato croquettes.

OK, so I know cheeseburgers and fries are an American staple: one that would be hard — if not sacrilegious — to try to improve.

But looking through the Artusi (a classic Italian cookbook written in the late 1800s), I found two recipes that are out of this world: one for pounded scallopine (or Battuta) and another for potato croquettes that I decided to make together for dinner one night this week.

Artusi collected recipes from mothers and grandmothers throughout Italy.

Artusi collected recipes from mothers and grandmothers throughout Italy.

The results were mind-blowing. My 12-year-old — who usually doesn’t like to eat anything out of the ordinary and who’s favorite meal is either pancakes or cheeseburgers — described the potato croquettes as “a little bit of heaven,” after sinking his teeth past the light crust on these babies.

Here’s what I did:

The pounded scaloppine recipe calls for a mixture of spices that several other recipes in the Artusi use, so I made a batch of this that I keep in my cupboard. Called “Spezie Fini” or “Choice Spices” you “grind in a bronze mortar” (or chop in a mini foodprocessor; or however you choose to grind):

  • 2 whole nutmegs
  • 2 ounces stick cinnamon from Ceylon
  • 1 ounce (4 1/2 tablespoons) all-spice
  • 4/5 ounce (4 tablespoons) cloves
  • 2 tablespoons sweet almondsThen “strain the powder through a silk strainer” (or whatever) and store it in a glass bottle. It should keep for years with the same potency.

Don't make the meatballs so big that they'll spill over the board when you roll them out.

Don't make the meatballs so big that they'll spill over the board when you roll them out.

Battuta (Pounded Scaloppine):

1.) Use enough ground beef to feed your guests. Season it with salt, pepper, grated cheese and spices (see above). No specific amounts are suggested, so use your judgment. (I used about 1 1/2 - 2 pounds of ground beef; about 1 cup of grated Parmigiano cheese and a heaping tablespoon of the spices. Just make sure the mixture isn’t too dry.)

2.) Mix well and shape the meat into two large meatballs. Coat each meatball with bread crumbs so it won’t stick and roll it out with a rolling pin until it’s about 1/8 inch thick.

3.) Cut the meat into palm-sized squares and saute them in a pan with butter. When they have browned, sprinkle them with either 2-3 tablespoons of tomato sauce or a tablespoon of tomato paste diluted in water.

4.) Bring sauce to boil and serve.

These "Italian Fries" are crisp on the outside and hot and smooth on the inside. No ketchup required.

These "Italian Fries" are crisp on the outside and hot and smooth on the inside. No ketchup required.

Potato Croquettes:

  • 2/3 pound of potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of melted butter
  • 1/2 cup of grated Parmigiano
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • Flour
  • 1 beaten egg

1.) Peel potatoes and quarter them before boiling them. Then press them through a strainer or ricer.

2.) Stir in remaining ingredients. Allow mixture to cool and divide into 10 to 12 equal parts.

3.)  Roll them on a lightly floured surface into sausage shape.

4.) Beat one egg and dredge the croquettes in it. Fry them in oil or lard. Drain on paper towels, salt, and serve.

(All photos by Mark Micheli)

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