Thursday, February 3, 2011

Superbowl Eats: One-Bite Fried Mozzarella & Spicy Tomato Sauce

I LOVED mozzarella sticks growing up.  Even in college we would buy the frozen ones and to make them even better, pan fry them instead of baking.  There is something about the ooey-gooey melting cheese dipped in marinara that is just pure perfection to me.  Even as a grown up I'm not too good to order mozzarella sticks or any kind of fried cheese when we're out. When the Boy and I go out for Greek the one given is always that we will get Saganaki,  this flaming cheese that is far more flashy than it's Italian cousin, mozzarella sticks but they will always be my favorite.

When brainstorming good Superbowl snacks, I knew I wanted to try my hand at fried mozzarella,  but I wanted to make a super spicy marinara to help cut the richness of the cheese.  What I realized in making it is that this is a great make ahead party snack.  You can cook the sauce and bread the cheese in advance, refrigerate the cheese until you're ready to fry and just reheat the sauce.  It won't take more than 5-10 minutes once your guests arrive and you'll impress your friends with a delicious and nostalgic gameday bite.

One-Bite Fried Mozzarella
serves 4 - if serving other munchies, otherwise only enough for 2

1 ball mozzarella - not the good fresh stuff, just what you'd use for pizza
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
peanut or canola oil

Heavy bottomed pot or deep frying pan
Deep Fryer

1.  Set up a breading station with one shallow bowl for frying, one with the eggs slightly beaten and one for breadcrumbs.  You can feel free to doctor your breadcrumbs, I often do but chose not to this time.
2.  Cut the hunk of mozzarella into 1" cubes, those near the round edges won't be perfect squares, but I urge you not to waist one bit of cheese.  You won't regret it.
3.  Bread each cube by coating in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs and set on a waxed-paper lined cookie sheet.  Once all the cubes are breaded place in the fridge for 20 minutes.
4.  Heat your pot with oil or deep fryer to 375F.  If you are using a pot make sure you have enough oil to comfortable cover the cubes.
5.  Carefully drop a few of the cubes into the oil. Make sure not to crown them.  I used my 3.5 quart Le Creuset pot and found that 4 pieces was ideal.  Let fry for 30 seconds to 1 minute until perfectly golden.  Remove and reserve on a paper towel-lined plate.  Continue until all of the bites are fried.  Serve with Spicy Marinara.

Spicy Marinara

1 large jar of roma tomatoes, with basil - whole or chopped
1/2 medium onion - chopped
2 cloves garlic - minced
1-2 thai red chilis - chopped (adjust based on the level of heat you want)
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flake
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
healthy pinch of sugar
sea salt & fresh racked pepper

1.  Heat olive oil in a 3-4 quart sauce pan over medium heat.  Add in onions, garlic, chilis and red pepper flake.  Saute until onions are translucent being careful not to burn the garlic.
2.  Add in the tomatoes.  I used home-canned whole tomatoes and broke them with my hands as I added them in.  I added the basil leaves that were in the jars too.
3. Reduce heat to medium low and let simmer for 10 minutes.   Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  Add a good pinch of sugar to balance the acidity.
4. Puree with an immersion blender to get a nice smooth dipping sauce.  Even if you use pureed tomatoes don't skip this step as it will puree the onions and other vegetables, making for a super smooth sauce.  

We ate this for lunch today and I have to say I think it made the boy excessively happy.  I'm sure it helped that it was our first day off of work together, but he LOVES anything fried and it's rare that I deep fry anything.   I liked that these were a single bite treat, no worrying about guests double dipping and it just easier to eat.

I used 2 thai chilis in my sauce so it had quite a bit of heat, but it really worked with the fried cheese and gave it a slightly more adult twist.  We have quite a bit of sauce leftover, but I know it will be great on some pasta in the coming nights.

All in all this beats any memory I have of mozzarella sticks and is something I'll absolutely be making again.

UPDATE:  Clearly great minds think alike I just found this super tasty sounding recipe over at The Curvy Carrot


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