March 19, 2020

Fried Italian Caprino or Pecorino Cheese


FRIED ITALIAN CHEESE
This is a super easy dish you can prepare in no time with ingredients you likely already have in your pantry. Perfect as an appetizer or second course over a bed of fresh, crisp greens. If serving as a second course, plan on serving larger pieces or two pieces per person.

The first time I had this for lunch in the mountains near Merano in Alto Adige (Italy) I was amazed at how ridiculously easy yet delicious this dish was. The hard part was finding cheese like theirs: mild flavored, with just the right amount of melted (not gooey) and not salty at all. Heavenly!

Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS
  • 4 pieces of 1 to 11/2 cm (about 1/2 inch) thick cheese per person. See Cooking tips regarding ideal types of cheese to use.
  • 1 whole egg or 1 egg white
  • 125g (4 ounces) of dry breadcrumbs 
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • Frying oil (see Cooking Tips) 

METHOD
Prep: 
  1. Pour breadcrumbs into a deep dish and add salt & pepper to taste, blend well.
  2. Remove crust from cheese and cut the cheese into squares or rectangles for more eye appeal
  3. Break egg into a bowl and beat well
  4. Pour enough frying oil so that it fills up the bottom with 2cm (3/4 inch). The frying pan should have high sides to prevent splashing, heat oil until pretty hot. 
  5. Cover a large plate with paper towels to hold your fried cheese
  6. Prepare serving plates with washed greens or salad.

When oil is hot - remember to turn ON your kitchen hood’s fan, proceed as follows:
  1. Dip one piece of cheese into beaten egg and turn over to ensure that it is well coated then ->
  2. Dip into the seasoned breadcrumbs, turning over to ensure that it is well coated then ->
  3. Place into the frying pan and cook for a few minutes until it is golden on one side and turn over to cook on the other side. 
  4. Do not overcrowd your frying pan, you need enough space to turn your pieces of cheese. 
  5. When golden on both sides, remove cheese from pan and blot excess oil on paper towels. 
  6. Place still hot cheese in the center of prepped plates with salad.
  7. Eat immediately.

COOKING TIPS
If you keep the cheese vacuum packed in the refrigerator, it will last for months, allowing you to “whip up this dish” at a moment’s notice, like a true Italian.

A pair of tablespoons may be best to turn the breaded cheeses, as I found the tongs tend to break the crispy bread crust. Have a spatula ready in case your cheese slices stick to the bottom - to prevent this to begin with, I suggest adding plenty of oil to your frying pan (see Prep point 4 under Method).

The right cheese. Although you could use most cheeses with this recipe, this particular dish calls for an Italian cheese that is not too young, not too old. A Caprino (goat) or Pecorino (sheep) cheese between 2-5 months is ideal. Too young and the cheese will melt before the breading becomes golden, too old and the cheese is likely to be too salty.

The Frying oil. When frying, choose an oil with a high smoke point such as peanut, grapeseed, safflower, soybean, sunflower, canola, or extra light olive oil are all good choices. 

Substitutions

You can make this dish Gluten free by substituting with GF breadcrumbs

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