Charred-Aged Provolone with Oregano and Tomatoes (“Provoleta”) Recipe
Most people will laugh at how simple this recipe is, but this simplicity is what I want to come through here. Argentine food is best when uncomplicated and to me the most influential recipes have always been those with very few ingredients. When this is the case, quality is of the utmost importance as is the attention to which the chef pays to cooking. For this dish, and for Argentinean cooking in general, the two most important factors are having a well-seasoned cast iron griddle or pan and having a comfortable working relationship with Medium/High heat.
Charred-Aged Provolone with Oregano and Tomatoes (a.k.a “Provoleta”) Recipe
Aged provolone cheese, cut into rounds 1/4″-1/2″ thick (Note: Get the best, most dense provolone you can find from your local Italian deli or market, and have your deli man slice it for you to your desired thickness, as a smooth flat surface is the key here.)
Extra virgin olive oil
Cast-iron griddle or pan
- Preheat your oven to 350.
- Get your cast iron skillet evenly heated to Medium/High, or just before the point of smoking.
- Lightly oil your provolone, one side only, and wipe off any excess, you want it well lubricated but not saturated.
- Carefully place your provolone firmly, oiled side down, on your cast iron griddle.
- Let sear for about one minute or until the corners of the cheese start to brown lightly and lift from the griddle.
- With a flexible metal spatula carefully lift the provolone off the griddle, being careful not to disrupt the seared surface, it will require some scraping to get underneath but with a little careful nudging, should not stick to seasoned cast iron, and should be light to medium golden brown, too much searing will result in a darker color and a bitter taste.
- Place the provolone seared side up in an oven safe casserole dish, and bake for about 5-10 minutes, until cheese begins to bubble and is soft in the middle.
- Remove from the oven and drain off any excess oil/grease and top with a pinch of diced tomato, oregano, and a little olive oil, season lightly with a small pinch of sea salt.
Provoleta is best when eaten still warm, with some crusty bread. It is a very filling appetizer and contrasts nicely with a mixed greens salad dressed with simple vinaigrette.
Again this may seem like a lot of words for such a simple recipe, but the key is in the technique. I can honestly say that all my friends, family, and regular customers who come to Caminito and eat Provoleta, say it is the best cheese appetizer they have had. It is in my opinion certainly more flavorful and interesting than another fried mozzarella stick!
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Photo Credit: Justin Levy