MOZZARELLA STICKS WITH BUTTERMILK DIP
When I told my friends I was planning on making homemade mozzarella sticks for a guy’s weekend out of town the idea was met with a profound lack of enthusiasm. Everybody knows that I like to experiment in the kitchen, but somehow the idea of making a bar food staple like mozzarella sticks from scratch seemed like a complete waste of time to the group. After being lectured about the innumerable brands available in the freezer section at the grocery store and a heated debate about whether marinara or ranch is the better dipping accompaniment, I decided to risk further heckling and see if I couldn’t one-up T.G.I. Friday’s in my own kitchen.
It might have been the alcohol, but the first batch was gone within a matter of seconds. Simultaneously crispy and gooey, these mozzarella sticks seem to defy the laws of physics and flavor. After the second batch had been demolished, a few halfhearted concessions came my way; they had to admit, homemade outranked frozen by a long shot.
With the right breadcrumbs, fragrant Italian spices and an organized assembly line for the essential double-dredging technique, perfect, scratch-made mozzarella sticks can be made at home in no time and with little effort.
With the question about whether or not it’s a waste of time to make mozzarella sticks at home answered, the question of the perfect dip remained. We decided to go with a buttermilk dip that was tangy, cooling and delicious. But I wouldn’t mind trying these with a marinara sauce, too.
MOZZARELLA STICKS WITH BUTTERMILK DIP
The secret to getting restaurant quality mozzarella sticks at home is using panko-style breadcrumbs and making sure that each piece of cheese is double dipped for an extra crispy crust that is free of any holes for the cheese to escape from during frying. Freezing the mozzarella sticks prior to frying ensures that the crust has time to adhere to the cheese in the dry environment of the freezer. As with all frying, make sure to carefully monitor your oil temperature and allow it to rebound in between batches. Because the mozzarella sticks are frozen, it might be a good idea to make a double batch to keep on hand for any last minute game day parties.
For the Mozzarella Sticks:
- 12 stick s of string cheese or 12 pieces of mozzarella cut into 4 x 1/2 inch sticks
- 1 1/2 cups panko-style breadcrumbs (or Progresso Italian-style Panko breadcrumbs)
- 4 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup of all-purpose flour
- Canola oil for frying
For the Buttermilk Dip:
- 1/3 cup buttermilk
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
- 2 tablespoons minced green onions
- 2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of table salt to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Dredge the mozzarella sticks: Spread the flour and breadcrumbs on separate plates (pie plates work well for this). Add the Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to the breadcrumbs and mix well. Place the eggs in a small bowl and beat them lightly.
- Drop a piece of cheese into the flour and roll it around until it is well covered. Shake off the excess flour and dip the cheese into the egg mixture before rolling it in the breadcrumbs until well coated. One last time, dip the breadcrumb coated cheese back into the beaten egg and roll again in breadcrumbs to create an extra crispy coating. Set aside on a clean plate and repeat with the remaining cheese sticks. Once all of the mozzarella has been breaded, place the plate into the freezer uncovered and freeze until the breadcrumb coating is firm, at least 2 hours.
- Meanwhile, make the buttermilk dip: In a small bowl, whisk all of the ingredients together until well combined. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Fry the mozzarella sticks: Pour enough oil into a large heavy-bottomed pot to come to a depth of at least 2 inches. Using an candy thermometer, heat oil until it reaches a temperature of 350°. Fry the mozzarella sticks in batches, being careful not to overwhelm the oil, until crispy and browned on the exterior, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
- Repeat with remaining mozzarella, allowing the oil temperature to rise back to 350° between batches. You can place the finished mozzarella sticks in a 200° oven to keep them warm while the others fry.
- Serve immediately with buttermilk dip.