Thursday, January 7, 2010


It was back in college that I started on my food journey. In my first apartment the height of my culinary sophistication was a dish called Monster Chicken. A split chicken, skin side up, a whole can of undiluted cream of celery soup spread over. Under the broiler (never turning it over) until it was a smoking, cinder-flecked eruption of sauce and chicken fat. Rice-A-Roni accompanied it. Important to note: this was not fare that ever appeared on the Sullivan family table, these recipes were passed on to me by college friends. Haven't turned out a Monster Chicken since the Reagan administration. No plans yet for a return, but never say never...

Then I started waiting tables at Kemoll's, one of St. Louis's most venerable institutions. Opened as a single room confectionery by Sicilian immigrants in 1927, during my tenure the original matriarch Gaetana still kept a sharp eye on the kitchen and the register. By then it had evolved into a top-notch dining destination, upholding traditional standards unheard of at the time. Fresh pasta made twice a week hanging to dry over wooden racks. Huge wheels of Parmigiano- Reggiano cut into cubes to fit the hand graters for tossing paglia e fieno and spaghetti carbonara table-side. A fridge dedicated just for big cold buckets of fresh clams, lovingly nourished with sprinkles of cornmeal until called into duty for a fritti or vongole.

The Mozzarella en Carozzas you'll encounter today are usually variations of sauteed grilled cheese sandwiches. Done well, exquisite, no question. However Kemoll's recipe is one of a kind. Rather than individual portions, Kemoll's stuffed an entire semolina loaf* with slices of fresh mozzarella, liberally spread with an anchovy-caper-lemon-parsley-olive oil emulsion and baked 'til the bread was crisped, cheese surrendered to the heat, the bold dressing permeating the loaf. Presented whole and served by the slice.

For a first course, bring this hottie out in a shiny copper baking dish to accompany a cool, crisp green salad.

*No mention of Kemoll's and bread would be complete without a shout out to Gaetana's daughter Joann Berger, creator of the beloved Pandora bakery. Sadly shuttered now, Joann is a good friend of my mom so we still have lucky occasions to enjoy her skills and largesse.

1 lb. loaf semolina bread
1 lb. fresh mozzarella
1 oz. canned anchovies (1/2 of a 2 oz. tin)
3 T. capers
1 T. butter
juice of half a lemon (or the whole lemon if it seems stingy)
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
generous handful flat leaf parsley

Slice the loaf, down to but not through the bottom crust,. You need the loaf to hold together. 1 inch slices. Make an equal number of mozzarella slices and insert into the loaf.

In a blender emulsify the anchovies, capers, butter, lemon juice, parsley, pepper (enough salt already). Spread over the loaf, use a spatula to work the dressing down into the slices between cheese and bread.

25 minutes in a 400 degree oven should do it -- halfway through you can spoon up the dressing in the pan and baste the loaf again.

This one is easy to tell when done, meltingly beautiful and fragrant.


  1. My mouth is watering reading this. Has all the right components. Sounds addictive!

  2. Hey guys!
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