There’s no way to get around it – you have to fry these to make them worth it. Yes, it will probably be a little bit scary and also potentially leave your house with a bit of a staaaaank, but surely one of your lower-tiered New Year’s resolutions was to try new things, or some other generic statement that falls within that general theme. Maybe the new thing you should try is being the person who fries a lot and becomes comfortable with the mildly irritating process of responsible oil disposal. I would certainly admire you, and isn’t that what you’re all after? MY admiration?
BA’s Best: Mozzarella Sticks w/ Spicy Marinara Sauce
Taken from BA’s Best arsenal, with the most minor of tweaks here and there
Serves 4 as an appetizer
1 28-oz can whole tomatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp white sugar
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes (you could omit these, but then you will certainly not be making spicy marinara any longer)
1 lb block mozzarella cheese (preferably thick, so you can cut fat sticks from it)
¾ cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
3 tbsp whole milk
2 cups panko
1 ½ tsp garlic powder
1 ½ tsp onion powder
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
Canola oil, for frying
Start by making the marinara sauce. Pulse the canned tomatoes and their juices in a food processor or blender until smooth (or if you’re like me, stop pulsing sooner and leave things a bit chunkier). Heat the oil and butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, then add the onion and cook until golden and soft (~5-7 minutes). Add the garlic and stir until soft and fragrant, another minute or so. Stir in the tomato paste, sugar, and red pepper flakes and cook until the sugar dissolves, ~2 minutes. Pour in the tomato puree and season generously with salt. Reduce the heat until the mixture is simmering, then cook until thick, ~15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the sauce from the heat and let cool completely. You can make the sauce up to 3 days ahead and store it in the fridge once cooled, if that’s easier.
Cut the mozzarella into sticks about the length and thickness of your finger (unless you have very small hands, in which case make friends with a large-handed individual). Set aside. Set out 3 shallow bowls and place flour in the first, eggs beaten with milk in the second, and panko combined with all remaining ingredients (except for oil, obviously) in the third. Season the panko mixture generously with salt and pepper. Working with one piece at a time, dredge the mozzarella sticks in the flour, then dip into the egg mixture, then coat in the panko mixture, pressing to adhere. Transfer the breaded sticks to a wire rack set inside a large baking sheet. Once all the sticks are on the rack, transfer to the freezer and freeze for at least 60 minutes.
Pour the canola oil into a large pot to a 2-inch depth. Heat over medium-high until a cooking/candy thermometer reaches 350 degrees F (or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil immediately sizzles and turns brown in ~20 seconds). Working in batches, fry the mozzarella sticks, turning occasionally until golden and crisp (~2 ½ minutes). Transfer the fried mozzarella to a paper towel-lined plate or tray and season with salt while still hot. Serve gooey and with plenty of spicy marinara (and also alcohol to help justify the decision-making process behind eating a mountain of fried cheese).