I love mozzarella sticks. The first time I had them, I knew then and there that fried cheese was something special. But why does Italian food seemingly have this culinary masterpiece of a snack on lockdown? I don’t have a good answer to that question, but recently I decided it was time to change things. I mixed one of my favorite snacks with probably my favorite type of cuisine (Mexican!) and the results were pretty glorious.
By using freshly ground corn tortillas as bread crumbs, you get an exterior that’s reminiscent of the freshly made tortilla chips at your favorite taqueria, but also something that’s not too far off the original Italian breadcrumb-coated version. I use Oaxacan cheese, which is a fresh Mexican mozzarella-style string cheese that’s perfect for this. It’s one of the stretchiest cheeses you’ll find.
Learn the easy technique in the sizzling video below:
- 1/2 pound oaxacan cheese
- 12 corn tortillas
- 2 cups flour
- 3 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- 4 eggs
- 1 can crushed tomatoes (large size)
- 1 medium sweet onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- Juice from 1 lime
- 2 cups cilantro, loosely packed
- 2 tablespoons salt
- Unwrap the ball of cheese, being careful to keep the rope intact, then cut 4-inch sections, similar in size to mozzarella sticks. If some of the pieces seem too wide, cut them in half lengthwise.
- Season the flour with half of the salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and oregano.
- Grind the corn tortillas in a food processor until you have fine crumbs, then add the other half of the seasonings to it.
- Beat the eggs, then place the flour, eggs and tortilla crumbs in three separate bowls, laid out in that order.
- One at a time, dredge the cheese sticks in the flour, then dip them in the egg. Tap off the extra egg, then roll the stick in the tortilla crumbs and coat evenly.
- Repeat the egg and tortilla crumbs (but not the flour), then lay out on a tray lined with parchment. Once you’ve got all your sticks dredged, put them in the freezer for 1 hour.
- While those are in the freezer, roughly chop your onions, garlic and cilantro. Add those plus the tomatoes into a blender with lime juice and salt, and blend until smooth. Pour into a bowl, cover and set aside.
- Heat 2-3 inches of oil in a cast-iron or heavy-bottomed skillet to high heat, about 375°F. Remove the cheese sticks from the freezer while the oil is heating up.
- Drop the sticks into the pan 2-3 at a time, and fry for about 1-2 minutes total, flipping about halfway through, and basting a tiny bit if there are any odd ends sticking out that don’t look like they’re frying enough. Remove from the skillet once golden brown, and place on a rack or on paper towels.
- Blot the extra oil, sprinkle with salt while still hot and serve with your homemade salsa.
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