March 01, 2010

Homemade Mozzarella Sticks with Herbed Tomato Sauce

For the mozzarella sticks:
9 oz package low moisture mozzarella sticks*
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups matzo meal or bread crumbs
1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 1/2 tablespoons dried parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons dried basil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon ground fennel

For the sauce:
28 oz crushed tomatoes
1/2 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced basil
1 tablespoon minced oregano
1 tablespoon minced Italian parsley
1 tablespoon olive oil

For the mozzarella sticks: Pour the eggs into a shallow bowl. Pour the bread crumbs into a shallow bowl and stir in the spices. Dip each stick into the egg then the bread crumbs then into the egg and then the crumbs again. Arrange the double coated mozzarella sticks in a single layer on a tray or plate. Cover loosely in foil. Refrigerate one hour or until the sticks are very cold. Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a skillet. Fry 1-2 minutes on each side, turning once. If frying in batches, keep the sticks in the fridge or freezer until you are ready to use them. If you have problems with cheese oozing out during the frying process, roll them in bread crumbs again prior to frying. Drain on a paper towel lined plate.

For the sauce: While the mozzarella sticks are being refrigerated, start the sauce. Heat the olive in a saucepan. Saute the onion and garlic until fragrant. Add the remaining ingredients and cook through.

*I don't normally buy mozzarella sticks (aka string cheese) but the package I had was a lower fat variety and there were 12, .75 oz, sticks in the package. You could also cut a block of low moisture mozzarella into sticks.

Note: If you'd rather bake than fry, bake the sticks for 7 minutes in single layer on a baking sheet at 350.

My thoughts:
I hadn't given fried mozzarella sticks a thought until I was at a show and a friend ordered some. How could I forgotten that melty cheesy goodness? I immediately thought about how I could make them at home. I knew I couldn't use the fresh mozzarella I buy at the Italian store because of its high moisture content so I went to the grocery store to buy a block of the packaged stuff when I noticed the packages of individually wrapped mozzarella "string cheese" sticks. While I try to avoid buying things that come in that much packaging, I did think it would give me more uniform results so I went ahead and used them. The ones I used were fairly short which made them perfect for use right out of the bag. If you buy snack sized mozzarella sticks that are fairly long, you might need to cut them in half. If the sticks are too long it is difficult to lift them out of the pan without bending which cracks the crust and allows the cheese to ooze out.

Mozzarella sticks can be sort of bland so I used plenty of dried (to keep the moisture level down) herbs in my plain matzo meal for zesty flavor. I double dipped the sticks to insure that no part of the cheese peeked out, which is essential. If any cheese is exposed, it will ooze in the pan and create a huge mess. Not appealing. But don't let that discourage you from making mozzarella sticks, it really wasn't difficult at all, it was just a matter of finding the right technique. Chilling the cheese keeps it from melting before the crumbs turn golden and pretty much insures a excellent finished product. Anyway, for a little bit of effort you can make homemade mozzarella sticks which are more flavorful and fresher than anything you'd be likely to encounter out.