Yeah, so I haven’t posted in 5 months. WHAT? FIVE MONTHS?? How did that happen? Yeesh. I sincerely apologize for failing so hard at blogging. Maybe I’ll be better at it now? Yes? Yes. I will.
Anyways, there was a Methodist potluck here at school and I decided to make something new and exciting that would impress my Methodist friends. I was desperate for inspiration and down in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan when I had an epiphany. I was at a legendary cheese shop with the most ridiculous prices in the world (seriously, it probably disproves some basic pillars of economic theory to sell cheese this cheap) and then I started thinking about fried cheese sticks.
Did you know that everybody loves fried cheese? It’s true, even the lactose intolerant folks in the world love the forbidden fruit of breaded and fried sticks of moldy milk. Since this is true, it must be the case that we make cheese sticks out of lots of kinds of cheese, right? Wrong. I have never seen cheese sticks made out of anything but mozzarella. This upset me greatly. After I suppressed my rage and calmed down, I bought a 3 pound log of delicious looking Smoked Gouda (for NINE dollars. I told you this cheese shop defied economics) and got to work. Let’s get to it.
3 lbs of smoked Gouda
1/2 can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1/4 c. olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 T. black pepper (plus more for breading)
1 c. flour
1 c. cornmeal
1/2 c. water
8 oz. plain Panko bread crumbs
a lot of vegetable oil
I decided I would marinate the gouda overnight for three reasons. The first and most obvious is that I love things that have strong flavors, and marinates help do that. The second is that you want to fry cold cheese, and cutting the gouda into strips would warm it up — more on that later. The third is that you need to moisten the cheese a little bit before you bread it anyway. Right. so on to cutting the cheese. Ha.
Cut one inch thick rounds out of the Gouda, and then cut said rounds into sticks that are about half an inch across. It is important to pay attention to keeping the rounds uniformly an inch thick, because if you don’t you’ll end up with cheese slivers instead of cheese sticks, and slivers don’t fry well.
Once you’ve got your cheese cut up, put it in a big zipper bag. Add half of the contents of the can of chipotle peppers. A couple of the peppers themselves are good to include, but the magic here is that adobo sauce. It is liquid flavor magic. Mince the garlic cloves, throw them into the bag too. Add the olive
oil and black pepper, close the bag, and shake it up to make sure everything gets a relatively even coating. Use a straw to suck all the extra air out of the bag (cheese doesn’t like being stored with air) and put the bag into the fridge overnight so the flavors can all get happy together.
When you’re ready to fry, set yourself up an assembly line of frying happiness. First, put a big pot (I use my dutch oven) of vegetable oil on the stove on medium or medium-high heat. Make sure you have a good 3″ or so of oil in the pot.
The reason you want to use a lot of oil when you’re frying is that it maintains temperature much better when it gets hit with the cold cheese sticks. Also, you need to be able to fully submerse the sticks or they won’t fry, they’ll just soak up grease.
To make your breading assembly line, mix the flour and corn meal on a plate or in a shallow
Ordinarily, I like to fry stuff at 350-375 degrees, but for the cheese sticks I was aiming
to keep the oil right around 320. Because you want the cheese to start to melt before the
breading burns, it’s necessary to fry a little cooler than normal. I was frying 8-10 cheese sticks at a time and it worked wonderfully.
To bread your cheese sticks, first roll each stick around in the flour until it has a uniform light coating on it. Then give it a quick dunk in the egg wash and then coat it completely with panko bread crumbs. I used a small plate to transfer the breaded sticks into the frying oil, it worked out pretty well.
Once a flight of cheese sticks are ready for their hot oil bath, gently lay them into the oil from the plate. Surprisingly, I did not have any issues with these things sticking to each other in the oil, so don’t worry about perfect placement. They do not need to fry for very long, about a minute was plenty of time while I was cooking. You’re looking for a deep golden brown. When the sticks are ready to come out of the oil, use a set of tongs to pul them out individually, gently shake all the excess oil off, and lay them on some paper towels to absorb all the extra grease.
This whole process is pretty messy. My assembly line was cheese to flour, flour to egg, egg to bread crumbs, into the fryer, wash hands while cheese is in fryer, pull cheese sticks out with tongs, and repeat. This means I rinsed my hands like 10 times.
Panko is a bizarre and wonderful substance that has an incredible ability to remain crispy and not greasy. That made these cheese sticks really pop. They were super delicious.
I served the Gouda sticks with a delicious chipotle aioli dipping sauce that really brought out the subtle chipotle flavor from the marinade. If you share this blog, I will send you the recipe for the aioli. You want to get the recipe for this aioli, I promise. These things were really, really good. I made what I thought was way too many, but I had no problem giving all the rest of them away.