If Easter’s extravagant Sunday brunch proved to be more than your fill of lamb, hot cross buns, and eggs n’ things, then here is a truly humble dish that I discovered while in the Trentino region this past weekend. I took an immediate liking to these capùc (kah-POOCH) on the first bite. What are they? A combination of bread and other ingredients wrapped in grape leaves then simmered in liquid until plump and tender.
Between the 2 restaurants where I ordered capùc, the 1st used older and larger grape leaves to enclose the filling. I was instructed to eat only the inside as the wrapping leaves were too tough. The 2nd restaurant made their version a little differently – small breadballs came wrapped in swiss chard tops making everything edible. In terms of authenticity, grape leaves are fundamental to this dish, but when it isn’t grape season? “That’s why we used swiss chard,” explained the proprietor.
2 thick slices of stale country-style bread
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/4 teaspoon tried thyme
1/4 cup finely chopped italian parsley
1 large egg
2 tablespoons (2 ounces or 50 grams) golden raisins
Scant 1 cup (2½ ounces or 75 grams) grana cheese, finely grated
2 ounces butter
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
12 large grape leaves, or 24 small
Note: The grape leaves used are the same ones called for when making greek dolmades. You can easily substitute this with swiss chard.
Briefly soak the bread in a bowl of water to soften. Remove and squeeze out excess liquid. Break into small pieces (as if making stuffing) and mix together with the dried marjoram and thyme, the fresh parsley, the egg, raisins and cheese. Lightly salt and pepper to taste.
Melt butter in a large pan and stir in the garlic until fragrant but not browned. Stir in the bread/herb mix, adding water if necessary should the filling be too dry. Remove from heat to cool.
Divide the filling into 12 portions, forming rectangular shapes. Position in the center of and wrap in grape leaves (using 2 leaves if working with small ones), folding up the bottom, sides, and top in that order. Secure with kitchen twine. In a deep pot bring 2 cups of water to a boil, lightly salt to taste and add the bundles. Lower heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 30 minutes. Drain and allow to cool completely.
These can be served warm with olive oil or melted butter, or at room temperature as a snack. Since I used grape leaves that were packed in brine, it did affect the overall flavor somewhat and I ended up discarding the leaves. The authentic style is to present the capuc intact so that diners unwrap the parcels for themselves. Makes 4 tasting portions.