It was only when I first started using Pinterest that it occurred to me that fried mozzarella sticks are merely just string cheese, breaded and deep-fried.
Every other food pin, it seems, is some new take on this super easy, simple recipe.
Seems obvious, right? String cheese is mozzerella, after all.
But it's not the same kind of mozzerella, I realized after tackling one particularly easy looking fried cheese recipe that called for panko crumbs as the breading.
The mozzarella restaurants and prepared food makers use for fried cheese is significantly more salty, providing a nice, flavorful taste even if you don't dip them in marinara sauce.
String cheese has more of a bland taste, which is OK if you're just eating the stuff straight. But coat it in bread crumbs and deep-fry it, and pretty much all you taste is the canola oil it was fried in.
If I made this recipe again — and I'm not saying I won't — I would just cut up regular mozzarella cheese into sticks, or use a more salty string cheese.
A recent perusal of the web found a string cheese taste-test done by the Serious Eats blog. Their testers noted the Sorrento Stringsters brand was the most salty they tasted.
Otherwise, you might want to add salt to your panko crumbs.
You can deep fry or bake these bad boys. I deep-fried them because No. 1, I just got a ceramic-coated cast iron Dutch oven and wanted to take it for a spin, and No. 2, I wanted to judge the recipe based on how I would normally eat mozzarella sticks.
The recipe is simple ... most of the time was spent waiting for the string cheese to freeze. This helps prevent it from melting too much and falling apart before the crust has a chance to get nice a brown.
Feel free to adjust the quantities to make as many cheese sticks as you want. I made a small batch, but could have made about double with the amounts I used below for the batter.
Definitely stick with the panko crumbs over regular bread crumbs — they provide a wonderful, crunchy texture.
Panko-crusted fried mozzarella sticks
4 sticks of string cheese (or the equivalent of cut-up mozzarella)
1 cup panko crumbs
1 teaspoon dried basil (use whatever seasoning you'd like ... original recipe called for parsley)
1 egg, whisked with a splash of milk
quarter cup of flour
enough canola oil to coat the bottom of a pan or Dutch oven with about half an inch of oil
marinara sauce for dipping
Cut the string cheese sticks in half across the shallow side so you end up with eight, shorter sticks of cheese
Roll the cheese in the flour until they're completely coated.
Coat the cheese in the egg mixture, making sure to cover it entirely.
Mix basil and panko crumbs. (You can add some salt here to taste, if you don't use a salty mozzarella).
Roll cheese sticks in panko mixture, making sure to coat thoroughly.
Set coated cheese stick aside on a plate. Once they're completely coated, put them in the freezer for about half an hour.
Poor canola oil into pan and heat on medium. Once the oil is hot, put the frozen cheese sticks in the pan and let them cook until they start to become golden, about a few minutes. Turn them over and cook the other side.
Once the cheese starts to seep out the cracks in the crust, that's a good time to take them out.
Serve with marinara sauce.
Contact Sunday Lifestyle editor Danielle Haynes at 693-1000, ext. 4116 or follow her on Twitter @DanielleHaynes1. Follow us on Pinterest by searching on Pinterest.com for "Greater Niagara Newspapers."
• WHAT: Panko-crusted fried mozzarella sticks
• DIFFICULTY: Medium
• TIME: 45 minutes to an hour start to finish
• RESULT: Yes, with some tweaks.