Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Homemade Mozzarella Balls

I know what you're thinking.

"This recipe is a no brainer. Everyone can make fried cheese." 

And I was one of you, I'm not going to lie. I found, however, that there really is a difference between frying cheese and frying cheese into an ooey gooey, melt in your mouth goodness. So I found a recipe called Fried Mozzarella Balls and Spicy Tomato Sauce. The sauce recipe sounded good, but we had already made marinara for our pasta, so we used it to dip instead of making an entirely different sauce. 

So, here is the recipe as described on the originalsite...

3-4 cups peanut oil, depending on type of pan you will be frying the cheese in
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
2 lb. mozzarella bocconcini (about 50 pieces)
4 eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 cups panko
Special equipment:  Deep-frying thermometer
Instructions
Drain the cheese from its liquid. Place the cheese on a paper towel-lined baking sheet and pat dry.
If your cheese balls seem pretty big, halve or quarter them into bite-size pieces.  Once they get the panko breading on them, they will be a lot bigger.
In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk.
Put the egg mixture and bread crumbs in separate wide, shallow bowls.  Combine the panko with the teaspoon of salt and Parmesan in another wide, shallow bowl.  (*If you only have one shallow bowl, use it for the panko.  It will help you immensely with the breading process.)
Roll the cheese in the flour, dip into the egg mixture and coat with the bread crumbs, shaking off the excess after each step.
Repeat the breading process one more time for each cheese piece.
In a large, deep saut√© pan over medium-high heat, pour the oil to a depth of 3 inches and heat to 350°F on a deep-frying thermometer.
Working in batches, fry the cheese until golden, about 45 seconds (or until golden brown-watch them carefully as oven temperatures may vary). If you notice that your thermometer’s reading decreases, wait for a little while until the oil gets back up to the proper temperature.
Transfer the fried cheese to a paper towel-lined plate and season with salt and black pepper. Place the cheese on a wire rack set over a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while frying the remaining cheese.
Serve with the warm tomato sauce.
First, I did not make 2 pounds of Mozzarella balls. There are only two of us, so I bought one little container and eyeballed the flour, breadcrumb, and Parmesan amounts (If you calculated it out, I basically made 1/4 of the recipe). With breading, you have to keep your proportions accurate to each other, but not necessarily precise. As long you're close, the final product won't usually be affected. 

I also nixed the deep pan and broke out my handy dandy deep fryer. So much faster and easier than pan frying. I suggest using one if you have it. This also negates the need for the thermometer. Then, I fried them until they began to float and/or you began to see a little leaking cheese. 

So I followed the recipe as stated, and I have to admit, they came out pretty good. I think I would use seasoned breadcrumbs, or season them to taste. Add some basil, oregano, salt and pepper, marjoram, etc. or some Italian seasoning for a bit more "Italian" taste as the breading was slightly bland and the flavor was very dependent on the cheese alone. 

Here's my thing though... We recently tried ordering from a new pizza joint Downtown known as R&B's Pizza. There was nothing wrong with our "voted #1 in the 'Burgh so many times in a row" favorite, Giovannai's, but we felt like trying something new and their prices were slightly better on their non-pizza items. Cal eats hot wings like its his job, and I am absolutely in love with Mozzarella Sticks. Giovanni's were ok, but since we were ordering from somewhere new, I tried them out. Can you say Mozzarella Heaven?? These were no frozen cheese sticks dropped in the fryer to order. These HAD to be homemade. They have this super salty, cheesy goodness about them that is almost indescribable. The recipe above is almost as good. Here's the catch; it looks like R&B's uses a tempura batter instead of breadcrumbs. So, next time I try this, I'm definitely tempura battering the cheese balls!

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