Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Prosciutto Wrapped Mozzarella Cheese Sticks with Spicy Marinara

You all know I have a weakness for anything to do with melted cheese.  I just do.  Today, I had a craving for fried cheese sticks.... like the kind I have had at countless restaurants over the years.  But this was a stay at home with the family watching football sort of day, so I figured I would just make my own.  

So I got to thinking about this, and EVERYone does the basic mozzarella cheese sticks.  How could I make these more interesting?  How could I invite the tastes, textures, and smells of Italy into my kitchen?  Then it hit me - maybe I'll wrap the mozzarella in thin, delicate sheets of prosciutto first.  Then came the question of the dip.  In my humble opinion, you MUST have a dip!  You could, of course, open a jar of marinara or something.  But marinara is super simple to make, so let's just go with the homemade option.  That way, I can make it exactly the way I want it. 


Print this recipe!

Ingredients:  

Cheese sticks -  
  • 1 package of mozzarella string cheese
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp Emeril's Essence seasoning
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups Panko bread crumbs
  • 1 Tbsp dried parsley flakes
  • canola oil for frying
Spicy marinara - 
  • 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, chopped fine
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp sugar

Step-by-Step:

Marinara - 
Let's start on the marinara, since that will take the longest.  It's quick to put together, but the longer you let it simmer, the better it tastes.

Lots of times, we start things off with hot oil, but not this time.  We will add the minced garlic to the COLD oil.  This way, the garlic will open up and flavor the oil more. 
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
Bring the heat up to a medium or so and let the garlic saute until it starts to develop a hint of color and becomes fragrant.  Please don't just turn up the heat and walk away.  Burnt garlic is yuck!
Now add the tomato sauce.
1 (15oz) can tomato sauce
While the sauce is starting to come up to a simmer, lets season it up!
1 tsp Italian seasoning blend
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, 1/4 tsp kosher salt.
1/4 tsp black pepper, 1/4 tsp sugar
Let once it comes up to a nice bubble, just put it on a back burner somewhere on low and let it simmer away quietly.  Stir it every once in a while.  I let mine go for probably 45 minutes while I was doing other things.  You will notice that it reduces quite a bit.  That's fine!

The cheese sticks - 
While the marinara is simmering, lets "build" the cheese sticks.  I made a three part breading station.

1.  1/2 cup All purpose flour + 1/2 tsp Emeril's Essence
2.  2 eggs, beaten + 1/4 cup milk
3.  1 1/2 cups Panko bread crumbs + 1 Tbsp parsley flakes.
Get them all lined up.
Now we are ready for the actual cheese part.  This breading station will accommodate about 16 sticks of mozzarella cheese.  They come individually wrapped, so obviously you need to unwrap them first.
 
See how paper thin and delicate the prosciutto is?  You can see my fingers through it.
At a slight angle, I wrapped the cheese sticks in the proscuitto.  This will help to keep the cheese from exploding in the hot oil, and give a different twist to the flavor profile.
Here we have it.  The prosciutto is quite sticky, so you shouldn't have any problems getting it to stick to itself.
Now the messy part.  (Not my favorite part)

Dip in 1. flour, 2. egg, 3. bread crumbs.
For the bread crumbs, really push the cheese into the bread crumbs hard.  Set them out on a baking sheet.  After you have all of them breaded, put them in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.
When you are ready, fry them for about one minute in hot canola oil.  I set the fryer to 365 degrees F.  I would only do a few at a time.  If you crowd the basket, 1- you will lower the oil temperature too much, and 2- your cheese sticks may stick together giving you a cheese blob!

Allow them to drain on a paper towel lined tray or plate.  Typically, you salt your fried stuff immediately after taking it out of the oil.  That's fine here, too... but just be forewarned, the prosciutto will add a lot of salt on its own, so go easy on the salt if you do add it.
Enjoy them immediately with the marinara.  I chopped a little fresh basil over the top to garnish.
Can you tell how crunchy this crust is? And the addition of the parsley makes it just gorgeous.
The prosciutto helps to keep the cheese from exploding.  Well, not really EXPLODING, but it does hold it in during the cooking process more than if you didn't have it.  See how lovely and gooey it is?


I hope you've enjoyed this fun recipe.  I have lots more on my Recipe Index!  

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Written Method:

Marinara - 
Let's start on the marinara, since that will take the longest.  It's quick to put together, but the longer you let it simmer, the better it tastes.  Lots of times, we start things off with hot oil, but not this time.  We will add the minced garlic to the COLD oil.  This way, the garlic will open up and flavor the oil more.  Bring the heat up to a medium or so and let the garlic saute until it starts to develop a hint of color and becomes fragrant.  Please don't just turn up the heat and walk away.  Burnt garlic is yuck!
Now add the tomato sauce.  While the sauce is starting to come up to a simmer, lets season it up! Add in the the crushed red pepper flakes, kosher salt, black pepper, sugar.  Let once it comes up to a nice bubble, just put it on a back burner somewhere on low and let it simmer away quietly.  Stir it every once in a while.  I let mine go for probably 45 minutes while I was doing other things.  You will notice that it reduces quite a bit.  That's fine!

The cheese sticks - 
While the marinara is simmering, lets "build" the cheese sticks.  I made a three part breading station.
1.  1/2 cup All purpose flour + 1/2 tsp Emeril's Essence
2.  2 eggs, beaten + 1/4 cup milk

3.  1 1/2 cups Panko bread crumbs + 1 Tbsp parsley flakes.
Get them all lined up.

Now we are ready for the actual cheese part.  This breading station will accommodate about 16 sticks of mozzarella cheese.  They come individually wrapped, so obviously you need to unwrap them first.
At a slight angle, I wrapped the cheese sticks in the proscuitto.  This will help to keep the cheese from exploding in the hot oil, and give a different twist to the flavor profile.  The prosciutto is quite sticky, so you shouldn't have any problems getting it to stick to itself.

Now the messy part.  Dip in 1. flour, 2. egg, 3. bread crumbs.  For the bread crumbs, really push the cheese into the bread crumbs hard.  Set them out on a baking sheet.  After you have all of them breaded, put them in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.  When you are ready, fry them for about one minute in hot canola oil.  I set mine to 365 degrees F.  Allow them to drain on a paper towel lined tray or plate.  Enjoy them immediately with the marinara.  I chopped a little fresh basil over the top to garnish.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks a wonderfu recipe for cheese sticks......more please so nice to have appetizers for the holiday season
    cheers, antje

    ReplyDelete

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