Is there anything better than fried cheese? Think about it. Is there? Ok maybe, but that’s not what this blog is about people! Get your minds out of the gutter! I’m talking about food. And when it comes to food, I’m just not sure that there is. That’s why it didn’t surprise me too much when fried mozzarella cheese balls won last week’s poll.
I generally like Tyler Florence recipes. He packs in lots of flavors which I love and he never gets too kitschy. He also doesn’t believe in substituting. He uses real butter, real cream, and real food. I like all of those things.
So it should go without saying that I liked these bad boys.
One thing that I really liked about this recipe is that Tyler uses homemade bread crumbs instead of store bought. This gives the fried mozzarella a kind of rustic feel. Store bought crumbs are uniform and the final product would end up almost too perfect. Using homemade, you get crunchy little imperfect bits that are really tasty.
1) Heat olive oil over high heat in a large pan and saute your onions, garlic and peppers for a few minutes. Be careful not to burn the garlic.
2) Let this mixture cool for a minute once the onions are soft and then add them to a food processor or blender with a pinch of salt and the tomatoes.
3) Toss a few piece of old bread in a 250 degree oven for 20 minutes then let them cool and crumble them up to make bread crumbs. A food processor works well for this.
4) Mix chopped garlic and rosemary with the breadcrumbs and a pinch of salt and pepper.
5) Dip cheese in flour to dry it off, then egg mixture, and finally give it a breadcrumb coating.
6) Stick the cheese balls in the freezer to cool for at least 15 minutes.
7) Heat oil for frying to 350 degrees. Fry cheese balls for about 2 minutes until they are a nice golden brown.
8) Serve the fried cheese with the tomato sauce!
Adapted from Tyler Florence Stirring the Pot.
Making the sauce
Ok. So the original sauce that Tyler whips up uses roasted cherry tomatoes. I wasn’t able to find any that looks good so I just used my new favorite canned tomato which is this fire roasted variety from Muir Glen. It makes for really good salsas and it turns out that it works great for dipping sauces like this also.
I used some dried Arbol peppers I had laying around, but you could definitely just use red pepper flakes or leave out the peppers if you’re worried about the heat. Dice up your onion and garlic and crush up your peppers with your hands.
Then heat up the olive oil over high heat in a large pan and saute your onions, garlic, and peppers for a few minutes until the onions are soft and your kitchen smells like garlic and peppers.
Let this mixture cool for a minute and then add it with a pinch of salt and pepper to a food processor or blender with your can of tomatoes. If you wanted a more rustic sauce you could probably just mush up everything with a fork.
Preparing the Breading
Like I said, one think I really liked about this recipe is the homemade breadcrumbs. They make for a great texture. If you’ve never made breadcrumbs before, just toss a few pieces of old bread in a 250 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Then let them cool for a few minutes. They should be very dry and crunchy. Then toss them in a food processor and pulse them until they are, well, crumbs.
They may not all be perfectly uniform, but that’s okay. That gives the crust on each cheese ball some character.
Also, chop up garlic and rosemary!
Mix your garlic, rosemary, and breadcrumbs with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Of course, you can use store bought breadcrumbs if that’s what you have.
On the cheese
Use a real, fresh mozzarella cheese for these. That will make them very delicious when they get all melted. You can definitely buy a big ball of cheese and cut it up into cubes, but these days sometimes you can find the tiny balls of mozzarella cheese in the deli section which are perfect for this recipe.
Making the balls
If you use fresh mozzarella, it will most likely be in a brine solution or at least be very wet so that’s what the flour is four in the recipe. Dip the cheese balls in flour to dry them out, then in the egg mixture, and finally press them into the breadcrumbs. Really press hard to make sure the crumbs stick nicely to each ball.
Preparing to Fry!
First thing’s first, stick your breaded cheese balls in the fridge. You want to make sure they chill for at least 20 minutes or so to let them cool down. I actually stuck mine in the freezer for about 15 minutes. If you don’t get them cold, you run the risk of the cheese melting too fast and then you’ll have exploding cheese balls on your hands.
While they are chilling, get your frying setup ready which for me is a big pot filled about 1/4 of the way with canola oil and a deep fry thermometer hooked to the side. Once your oil reaches 350 you are ready to go.
These guys will only need about 2 minutes to become a nice golden brown. I’d recommend doing a test with one ball to make sure that they are cold enough and everything is working. It’d suck to throw them all in only to have a mess up.
When you do start cooking them, you don’t want to fry too many mozzarella balls at once. I was able to do mine all in one batch because I have a big 6 quart pot, but you might have to work in batches. You just don’t want any overlap. Also if the temp on your oil drops below 325, don’t add anymore as they won’t fry nicely.
As they come out of the oil, drain them quickly on a paper towel and then plate them up with a big bowl of the sauce. The sooner you can eat them, the better they’ll be!
I thought toothpicks would be a good idea for these, but the best weapons for eating these are your fingers!
Here was my first bite!
Don’t get too worried if you lose one or two while frying. I lost one soldier. It happens. If you make sure that you press your crumbs on firmly and chill them out before frying, you shouldn’t have too many problems.
Like I said, I’m not sure that much can beat a crispy on the outside, melty on the inside, fried cheese thing.