Sorry about this one. It’s definitely not on your New Year’s resolution list.
The Super Bowl is coming up (in case you haven’t heard), so the next few posts will be some fancy-schmancy appetizers for the big game. Well, actually, they are not fancy-schmancy, but easy to prepare, savory, and completely manageable.
Besides the Super Bowl coming up, I am a huge fan of appetizers. I always have been, for whatever reason. Give me some nice wine, appetizers, good company, and a little dessert, and I am a happy camper.
Now, on to these little Bocconcini (I have no idea of how to pronounce it-I apparently butcher it every time I say it….). They are little tiny balls of mozzarella that can be found in the cheese section of most grocery stores. So, they were easy to find. (Yay-no extra trips across town…). Everything else was in my pantry.
So, who doesn’t like a little fried mozzarella? I had to face my fears of the hot oil again, but, you know what? The more I have tried frying different things (ok, so not so good for me), the better it gets each time. I think it’s always a good thing to have a little fear of that hot oil, but, at least I am branching out in my culinary experiences.
The spicy tomato sauce was a little tangy, but not as spicy as I would have liked it. Don’t get me wrong, it was a little spicy, but next time I make these (and yes, there will be a next time for sure), I am going to add a little more heat. I also served them with a little Ranch dressing (my personal favorite), but you could serve them with whatever kind of sauce you like.
Fried Bocconcini with Spicy Tomato Sauce
Servings: approximately 20 (I halved this recipe, but I am listing the full one here-it would be enough for a large group)
For the sauce:
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes, juice reserved
Salt and pepper, to taste
For the fried mozzarella:
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)
1/2 cup milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 cups panko
Special equipment: Deep-frying thermometer
1. For the sauce: In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the 1/2 cup olive oil.
2. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until the garlic is soft but not browned, about 1 minute.
3. Add the tomatoes and their juices and simmer until the sauce is thickened, about 6 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper. Set aside.
4. Preheat an oven to 200°F.
5. For the fried mozzarella: Drain the cheese from its liquid. Place the cheese on a paper towel-lined baking sheet and pat dry.
6. 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.
7.In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk.
8. 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.)
9. Roll the cheese in the flour, dip into the egg mixture and coat with the bread crumbs, shaking off the excess after each step.
10. Repeat the breading process one more time for each cheese piece.
11. In a large, deep sauté pan over medium-high heat, pour the oil to a depth of 3 inches and heat to 350°F on a deep-frying thermometer.
12. 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.
13. 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.
14. Serve with the warm tomato sauce.
Adapted from Williams Sonoma.