The holiday decorations have been put away for another year, the leftovers have been eaten (including ALL the cookies); now is the season of remorse. But before embarking on the inevitable diet, let’s revisit one of the greatest holiday treats of all – ‘mbriulate (pronounced um-bree-you-lah’-tay), a cross between pastry and bread, laced with bits of pork, sea salt and heavily peppered. It is one of those things of which you say to yourself, ‘Oh, I’ll just try one little bite,’ and half an hour later realize that you’ve eaten a whole turban. It’s impossible to stop!
The Captain’s family is Sicilian, and he learned to make this dish from his mother many years ago. It is a dish which is found in the Sicilian province of Agrigento and has, most probably, Roman origins. The only other people we know personally who make it are his cousins, who have an interesting variation I’ll tell you about later. What does ‘mbriulata mean? We don’t really know, although the cousins surmise it may come from the word ‘miscuglio’ – a mix, a confusion of things, or perhaps from the Italian word ‘imbrogliata,’ a muddle.
Be warned: you will not find this in the AMA guide to heart-healthy eating. But for a special occasion you can not do better than start the meal with ‘mbriulate, either with your drinks beforehand or after you’ve moved to table – and you always want it in the plural. One ‘mbriulata might satisfy a lonely solo reveler, but no more than that.
The Captain’s recipe is simplicity itself, calling only for a filling of pork, Crisco, salt and pepper. The cousin’s recipe eschews the Crisco (which doesn’t exist in Italy) and adds onions, pitted black olives and bits of cheese.
You can find the recipe for both variations here.