This is another dish I made up for a Saturday lunch for my wine-trade friends. “Fritto misto is an Italian mixed grill,” wrote the saucy Molly Castle back in 1935 in her Round the World with an Appetite, “but it is as different from the English mixed grill as the Italian and English methods of lovemaking. Fritto misto is light, airy, unexpected, and its intentions are not strictly honourable.” A classic fritto misto might include as many as 12 or 14 different ingredients—for instance, chicken livers, calf’s brain, sweetbreads, frogs’ legs, strips of veal scalloppini, tiny meatballs, zucchini, eggplant, apples, artichoke hearts, chestnuts, mushrooms, potatoes, even amarettini cookies— all dipped in batter and deep-fried, then jumbled up together on a platter. I love fritto misto, but, frankly, making the real thing is an arduous task. (Each item must be fried separately, and most of them require significant preparation.) On the Saturday in question, then, I improvised a stripped-down (and untraditional) version of the dish, using only four ingredients—shiitake mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, sage leaves, and thin slices of chicken sausage. I must immodestly admit that it was delicious—and that my last-minute notion of serving it atop a tangle of bitterish salad greens to help cut the richness of all this fried food was a good one. (The idea of using a splash of gin in salad dressing instead of vinegar or lemon juice, incidentally, I owe to the late Jock Livingston—founder, with his wife, Micaela, of the legendary Ports in West Hollywood.)
Poach sausages for 15 to 20 minutes in water to cover, then remove from pot, drain, and pat dry. Set sausages aside to cool.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a pot with at least a 3-gallon capacity.
While oil is heating, place flour in a large mixing bowl, then add wine slowly, stirring constantly with a whisk, until a smooth batter is formed. To test for consistency, dip a sage leaf into batter. Batter should adhere to leaf, coating it thoroughly, but should remain translucent. If consistency isn’t right, add more flour or wine as necessary.
When oil begins to make a light popping sound, stir batter once, then, working as quickly as possible, dip Brussels sprouts into batter and fry until golden brown, lifting out of pot when done with a slotted metal spoon. Drain Brussels sprouts on paper towels as they are done.*
Repeat the process with mushrooms and sage leaves, allowing oil to reheat a minute or two between batches.
Slice cooled sausages on the bias into pieces about
When all items are fried, toss salad greens in a large bowl with a small quantity of olive oil and a small splash of gin. Distribute them evenly among six plates.
Either arrange fried foods over greens in an attractive pattern or toss them together lightly in a bowl and serve ingredients mixed together. Salt the fritto misto, then sprinkle each serving with parsley and a few drops of strained lemon juice.
© 1992 Colman Andrews. All rights reserved.