All About That Cheese
A fried snack made “healthy”
I bet the combination of the words “baked” and “mozzarella” triggers a whole lot of feelings, and perhaps even a mouth-watering food memory. I was only introduced to this concept at the age of 10, at pizza hut, and was totally obsessed with the cheese pull from a slice of thick pan pizza. For a long time, the only three kinds of cheese I knew were the mozzarella on pizza, the Parmesan over pasta, and a slice of cheddar melted on a burger.
Only later did I discover how crazy people are about mozzarella, even on it’s own. And the cheese-pull is an evergreen success in just about any and all food-related content. In my opinion it should not be retired—well the rainbow kind can be. So here’s to my, or everyone’s nostalgic obsession: mozzarella sticks.
Our recipe takes a lighter approach than those in a stadium: instead of being deep-fried, we baked them. With all the pantry ingredients, this is a perfect snack for kids and adults, football and soccer fans alike. Trust me, they will be the first snack to disappear at any party!
Here comes the question: which kind of mozzarella is best for mozzarella sticks? Ideally, you should go for mozzarella cheese blocks, often labelled “low moisture” or “part-skim”. It has a slightly saltier flavor and denser texture than fresh mozzarella. You can also buy pre-cut string cheese if available—they’re basically born for this recipe.
Of course, our recipe proves that fresh mozzarella will work, too. The only shortcoming is that they’re hard to shape. Our chef Hanna recommends using cow milk mozzarella instead of buffalo milk, as the latter contains more liquid. Find big pieces, let it drain over a sieve for a few hours, and pat dry. The important thing, according to our chef Hanna, is to freeze the sticks for at least one hour.
Panko breadcrumbs are naturally airy and light, so here they pair extremely well with the gooey cheese. These breadcrumbs have always been popular in Asian cuisine (of course particularly in Japanese cuisine), but have been getting more attention for coating things like schnitzel. It crisps wonderfully without absorbing too much oil, while added cornflakes give even extra crunch. Hanna chose two fancy-ish seasonings: herbes de Provence and Piment d’Espelette, which are highly recommended to add to your spice shelf. However, you can be experimental with the seasonings! Anything you’d like to flavor fish sticks or chicken nuggets? Don’t hesitate to try them here.
Use two forks to coat the sticks, and cheers to clean hands. In the recipe, we coated the sticks twice to make sure the coating is thick enough so the cheese won’t ooze out too much while baking—but of course, a little bit of a mozzarella leak won’t hurt. Hanna’s other small tip is to spray the sticks with baking spray before baking to help make them more evenly golden.
Air-fryers are also a good alternative to deep-frying or baking, that is if you have one. If you’re not convinced by baking, and you’re still very much into deep-frying your mozzarella sticks, try a frying method like you would with an onion rings recipe, for example.
Wait, there’s a sauce!
Marinara sauce (Italian tomato sauce) is the classic partner in crime for dipping hot mozzarella sticks. Homemade ranch dressing can also fit well, or, you can venture into even bolder territory and try all kinds of salsa.
Published on March 7, 2020