Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Beer-Battered Cheese Curds for the Big Game


The Setting: A gorgeous, blue-sky day.

The Soundtrack: HGTV's Love it or List it. Hoosband says I'm addicted. He may be right.

Steaming up the Oven: Nothing yet. I think it's gonna be a salad kind of day.

The Scenario: Bring the sports bar to your living room with the perfect bite for the big game.

Here in the Midwest, one of my favorite local indulgences is the devilishly deep-fried, beer-battered cheese curd.

For those not familiar with the curds in question, they are essentially little nuggets of would-be cheddar that are scooped out of the whey, rinsed, drained, and pretty much left as-is (instead of being pressed into blocks and allowed to mature into full-fledged cheddar).

While many establishments in my 'hood have their versions of this fabulous fried find, the curds at Brother's Bar and Grill are the gold standard in my book.

There, the crispy, puffed-up packages of molten cheese are completely irresistible, especially when dipped in  a creamy horseradish-mustard sauce and accompanied by an ice-cold brew.

To emulate Brother's immaculate creation, I modified the light and airy batter from Alford and Duguid's Deep-Fried Bananas to fit my cheesy needs. Beer stands in for the water or coconut milk, the sugar is reduced from 2 T to 1 tsp, and the salt is increased slightly. I found I needed to increase the liquid from 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup, but you'll want to start with 1/2 cup and add more only if absolutely necessary to loosen up the batter. Just keep in mind the batter should be very thick, not free-flowing.

If you are traveling to a friend's house for the big game, these curds can be fried a few hours in advance and re-heated right before kick-off. Simply spread them out in a single layer on a large baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes.

For the very best results, however, you'll want to serve them within minutes of frying. Paired with Creamy Mustard Sauce, these beer-battered golden nuggets will be sure to score a touchdown during the big game--even if your favorite team isn't so lucky.


Beer-Battered Cheese Curds
If you can't find cheese curds where you live, try using similarly sized hunks of a mild, semi-firm cheese such as a young cheddar or Monterrey jack. 

1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rice flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1/2-2/3 cup light beer (I used Miller Lite)
Peanut oil for deep-frying
1 lb fresh cheddar curds

Whisk together the first five ingredients (flour through salt) in a medium-sized bowl. With a wooden spoon or firm spatula, stir in the beer--the batter should be smooth but thick. Let sit 10 minutes.

Line a large baking sheet with paper towels and place a cooling rack on top.

Heat the peanut oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saute pan or cast-iron skillet. When the oil is ready, a small bit of batter dropped in the oil will sizzle and float to the top of the oil but not brown immediately; if the batter sinks to the bottom and stays there, the oil is not ready yet.

When the oil is ready, drop several cheese curds into the batter, coat thoroughly, and carefully drop each one into the batter. Use a spider or metal slotted spoon to turn each one after a few seconds in the oil so that  they cook evenly. When the curds are golden and most of the bubbles have subsided, use the spider or slotted spoon to carefully transfer the fried curds to the prepared cooling rack. Repeat with remaining curds.

Serve immediately with Creamy Mustard Sauce and a cold beer.


Creamy Mustard Sauce
The perfect accompaniment to Beer-Battered Cheese Curds, this may be the easiest sauce you'll ever make. It can be whipped up at the very last minute, or up to one week ahead of time, in whatever quantity desired. Look for Chinese hot mustard in the international aisle.

Equal parts:
Chinese hot mustard
Sour cream

Combine equal parts Chinese hot mustard and sour cream. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.


Thanks for reading! Here's to Being the Secret Ingredient in your life.

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