Provoleta

Provoleta

(Four small servings or two large ones)

1 slice aged Provolone cheese, about ¾-inch thick and 6-7 inches in diameter (8-10 ounces)

3 tablespoons very good olive oil

2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano, or about ½ teaspoon dried oregano

1 clove garlic, peeled and cut into thin slices

Spanish smoked paprika, hot or sweet

The night before you plan to make this, stand the slice of cheese on its rounded side on a dish and let it sit, uncovered in the refrigerator overnight.  This allows the flat surfaces of the cheese to dry out a little.

Add the oil, garlic, and oregano to a small saucepan, then place the pan over low heat and cook, swirling occasionally, until the garlic is golden but not brown.  Take the pan off the heat and pour the contents into a small bowl.  Let it sit for 10 minutes to cool a little, then strain out the garlic and oregano and set the oil aside.

Set an oven rack about six inches below the broiler and preheat the broiler to high.  Put half the oil in a small skillet, preferably about the same size as the cheese slice – either cast iron, enameled cast iron, or all metal that can go under the broiler.  Heat the skillet with the oil on medium-high heat until the oil shimmers.  Put the cheese slice in and cook for two minutes.  Gently lift the cheese with a spatula and check the color – it should be a little more pliable than it was when you put it in the pan.  You’re not looking for browning yet because the bottom of the cheese will continue to cook from the heat of the skillet.  If it’s still pretty firm, let it cook for another minute.

Brush the remaining oil on top of the cheese and sprinkle with a little smoked paprika.  Carefully – using a heavy but flexible potholder — put the skillet on the rack and broil until the cheese on top gets just a little brown (not always easy to see with the paprika on top, so you may have to pull it out and check).  It shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes.  You can either leave the cheese in the skillet to serve, or remove it from the pan with a big spatula and put it on a plate.  Sprinkle with a little additional paprika and serve in the skillet with good bread.

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