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Want to eat healthy? Great, let’s fry cheese

1/2/14 | By Paul Suplee, CEC PCIII

Among many New Year’s resolutions floating in space right now is the desire by many to eat healthy.  We all know that we can do better than we did in 2013.  We are well aware of the conventional wisdom that warns of fat content, sugar levels and fried foods.

We listen to the TV ads until we’ve had it up to here, being lectured about how a life of lettuce and nuts will set us free.  Then the next guy pops up and tells us that a few pounds of protein every day will take us back to our primal selves.  With just a little more self-control you can learn to lick that lackluster waistline and replace it with a meaner, leaner you.

So go and grab that celery stalk.  Set out, dear friend, to throw some carrots, spinach and ginger in the juicer as you work your way through Schwarzenegger’s Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding.

I’ll just be right over here turning on the deep fryer.  I mean, seriously, who doesn’t like fried cheese?

There is something so rattling about freshly breaded and fried mozzarella; the aromas of the crispy breading melding with the gooey, volcanic inside.  The conflict between the anticipation in knowing that the first bite will probably burn your mouth and the desire to skip the necessary waiting period is enough to make the moment memorable.

With a good fresh mozzarella, there is a certain palatability in the rich but fresh milk flavor that erupts when you bite in the piping hot morsel fresh from the fryer.  As we designed this salad in Rehoboth Beach years ago in a restaurant where I worked, we simply took the different parts of the famous Caprisi (Caprese, Capresi; you choose) salad and tweaked them out as we saw fit.

Imagine the look on your guests’ faces when they bite into such a deliciously amusing cheese ball.  As simple as it is to prepare, there is a certain joy in knowing that most people won’t take the time to go through the motions in creating this.

If you play your cards right you can simply tell your guests that this takes forever to craft and then they can allocate this as your own signature dish that you will then need to recreate at every holiday and weekend get-together.

It’s the New Year.  I’ll work on the fried cheese while you consider the many ways your life will change on your new diet.  I’ll worry about that silly celery stalk tomorrow.

Fried Caprisi Salad

makes four salads

16 ea. breaded Mozzarella balls (recipe follows)

sliced tomato, as needed

1/2 c. basil mash (recipe follows)

Arugula salad (recipe follows)

EV Olive Oil, as needed

freshly cracked pepper

coarse sea salt, as needed

Heat a fryer to 350°

Fry the mozzarella balls (breaded bocconcini) until golden brown

Remove to a paper towel or clean kitchen towel to drain

Plate the mozzarella in a pyramid and then place remaining ingredients on plate

If using a rectangular plate, remember the rule of odd numbers; try to keep piles of 3, 5 or 7 items on a plate.  For some reason our brains typically prefer to see odd numbers of discernible groupings on a plate

Season at the end with cracked pepper and sea salt

Breaded Mozzarella Balls

16 ea. Bocconcini (small mozz balls)

flour for dusting

4 eggs

s&p as needed

2 tbsp. half & half

Panko bread crumbs, crushed

Place the bocconcini in the flour to dust them.  This keeps the egg wash adhered to the ball and less likely to seep off as you bread.

Working a few at a time, place into the egg wash and individually move them to the bread crumbs.

Press firmly but gently and repeat the process if you have a lot of blank spots.

When thoroughly covered, set aside until ready to fry.  If it is going to be a while, refrigerate.

Basil Mash

1 bunch fresh basil, stems removed

salt & pepper to taste

2 cloves garlic, smashed

EV Olive Oil, as needed

Rip or cut the basil into smaller pieces and then transfer to a mortar and pestle.

Add some salt and pepper.  This acts as an abrasive which makes mashing it all that much easier.

Mash for a couple minutes and then add the garlic.

When it is close to the consistency that you want, drizzle in the oil and then adjust seasoning to your liking.

Set aside for at least 30 minutes and if longer, refrigerate.  When you are playing with garlic in oil, there is a potential for botulism to blossom if present.  Time and temperature control are critical here, so keep it cold to be on the safe side.

Arugula Salad

2 handfuls fresh baby arugula

juice of 1/2 lemon

1 tsp. sherry vinegar

1-2 tbsp. grapeseed oil

salt & pepper to taste

small sprinkle of sugar, optional

Gather your MEP (mise en place) and have handy when you are ready to plate the salad.

At time of plate-up toss all ingredients together and plate.  Do not do this in advance as the arugula will wilt after tim

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