Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Vegan Mozzarella Sticks!

Vegan Mozzarella Sticks!  The best and least healthy thing in the world - something that makes me deliriously happy!  I used to love the ooey gooey cheese sticks when I was a kid and definitely ate them far too often.  I can't remember how many years it's been since I've had them - high school was probably the last time!

I am so lucky to work in a vegan bakery within an extremely vegan friendly kitchen.  Our chef allows myself and others in our department to purchase items from the kitchen at her cost, which is a considerable discount  when you consider the price at retail.  So, I recently purchased a one pound chunk (there is no better word!) of daiya mozzarella style vegan cheese.  I had such grand ideas of things to make with this cheese, but truth told, once I purchased it, it seemed like too much and I rarely seem to use "cheese" anymore on anything I cook.  I've started getting nervous about it going bad, and even though I bought it at a nice discount, it wasn't free and I definitely don't want to throw it away.

I was talking to a coworker about my dilemma, and she came up with an entire list of suggestions, like lasagna, stuffed shells ... and ... mozzarella sticks.  I was so overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of cheese that it hadn't occurred to me to make any of those things, even though I have tried the vegan cheese sticks before and had success with my recipe.  So cheese sticks here we come:

Vegan Mozzarella Sticks:

Yields: 4-6 Servings

Wet Batter:
1/2 cup unbleached flour
1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk
1 tablespoon arrowroot or tapioca starch
1 tablespoon corn meal
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Breadcrumb Mix:
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1.  Slice the cheese into rectangular sticks and set aside.
2.  Prepare the wet batter.  Place all ingredients into a small bowl and whisk together until smooth and no lumps remain.  This mixture will be very thick.
3.  Prepare the herbed bread crumb mixture.  Place all the ingredients into a small bowl and mix with hands until the herbs and spices are evenly distributed.
4.  Set everything up in an assembly-line production style:  the mozzarella sticks, the wet batter, the bread crumb mixture and a clean plate to put the finished sticks on.
5.  Place the mozzarella stick in the wet batter and coat all sides. Immediately dunk the wet cheese stick into the bread crumb mixture, and working quickly, coat all sides in the herbed mixture and place the finished cheese stick onto the clean plate.
6.  Repeat with remaining ingredients until all the cheese sticks are coated in both the wet mix and the bread crumb mix. 
7.  Place the entire plate of cheese sticks in the freezer for 15-20 minutes or until the outer crust firms and is no longer soft to the touch.  This is a very important step - if you do not do this, the outer coating will fall off as soon as it hits the oil and the cheese will burn all over the pan and oil and just creates a terrible mess - I made this mistake the first time because I was feeling lazy about waiting while the cheese sticks  were in the freezer.
8.  Place about an inch of no-taste oil like canola or vegetable in a small sauce pot and heat over medium-high heat until a piece of bread crumb immediately starts bubbling and comes to the surface.
9.  Fry these in batches and place on a paper towel lined plate to drain.  Watch these very carefully as they like to stick to one another and they take only about 30-40 seconds.  As soon as they are lightly golden, take them out or the cheese will start exploding out the sides.
10 .  Eat these with a nice warm dish of marinara sauce - homemade hopefully!  So delicious!



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