There's something so satisfying about a juicy roll. For one, I love how a simple sauce can change the texture of bread from dry, to moist and chewy. Paired with a substantial filling like these fried Swiss chard 'polpette' makes for a fulfilling meal. The richness of the fried polpette and sauce in this panino, is balanced out by the freshness and acidity of the salsa verde. Each bite is different; some oozing with cheese and very rich, while other bites where the salsa verde has capitalised are zingy and fresh. It's not a uniform experience, there are many little experiences in the one meal - a characteristic I look for in an excellent roll. Besides how delicious it is, I love that simple winter veg can be used to produce such a flavourful bite.
Serves 4 to 5
For the polpette
1 bunch Swiss chard (rainbow chard)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
Sunflower/vegetable oil for frying
Pecorino Romano, sliced
For the sauce
1 bottle of passata
Garlic, one clove
For the salsa verde (adapted from Gjelina the cookbook)
3/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 anchovy fillets, rinsed and chopped
1 tbsp capers, rinsed and chopped
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 garlic clove, grated with micro-plane
2/3 cup EVOO
Salt to taste
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
For the salsa verde, add all of the ingredients except red wine vinegar in a bowl and stir to combine. Let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes before storing it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Stir in vinegar just before serving. I have often made this without anchovies or capers if they are not around and it is still refreshing and delicious.
For the polpette, slice leek and rainbow chard, including the colourful stalks. Transfer to a heavy-based frypan coated with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sauté over a low-medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Transfer the mixture to a blender (or food processor) and blend until around half has reached a smooth consistency (if you don't own a blender just dice the veggies into smaller bits before sautéing - you will get a different consistency but it will work). Bring it together in a medium sized bowl with the Parmesan, egg, breadcrumbs and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Roll mixture into portions a bit smaller than a golf ball and transfer to a plate as you work, set aside. If you find the mixture is not forming into balls well, then add more breadcrumbs, or add a bit of water if too dry.
To make the sauce, micro-plane garlic into the heavy based frypan you used earlier. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and very gently cook for less than a minute to release the flavour but do not brown at all. Add the passata, a pinch of oregano and salt, and cook for about 10 min on low heat. I always add 1/2 a cup of water to the empty passata bottle, give it a shake and add that to the sauce so it's not so thick.
In a fry pan heat 1/2cm of sunflower oil over medium heat until hot. Working in batches, gently press down on the polpette to create a thick disc before placing into the hot oil. You will need to adjust the heat as you work to prevent burning; fry for about 2 minutes on each side and transfer to a plate with paper towels to drain. When finished, transfer the fried polpette into the pan with sauce and cook over a low heat for a few minutes, enough for the sauce to penetrate.
To assemble the subs, cut baguettes in half or thirds. Spoon a generous amount of sauce over both sides, layer with a row of polpette on the base and slices of pecorino on top. Keeping them open, place under the grill until cheese has melted and bread has gone crunchy around the edges. Slather a generous amount of salsa verde on the top, close it all up and dig in. A seriously juicy bite!
Variation: Grind equal parts whole cumin, coriander and fennel seeds. Add 1 tbsp to the chard mixture. You could use the polpette in a hearty salad with tahini drizzled on top.