Cheese curds are small chunks of freshly made cheese, typically cheddar, before they have been aged and processed. Not surprisingly, they hail primarily from Wisconsin, where dousing the soft, springy cheese curds in batter and deep-frying them is a tradition. You'll find them on the menus of restaurants and at county fairs. If you make your own, freezing the battered and breaded cheese curds is an important step to ensure that the batter sticks to the tiny curds.
The cheese curds are known for the distinctive "squeaky" noise you hear when you chew on them. Outside of the Midwest, you may have to buy them at a specialty store, farmers' market, a deli that makes cheese or from online retailers. If they are not super fresh, they may lack the signature texture and squeak. Zapping them in the microwave for a few seconds can restore the texture and its squeakiness.
Batter, bread or do both to the cheese curds before frying. Create a batter for the curds by combining flour with baking powder, about a teaspoon per cup of flour. Beat in a couple of eggs and a 1/2 cup of milk per cup of flour and season to taste. Instead of milk, use beer for beer-battered cheese curds. Combine the ingredients well, then pour the cheese curds into the batter to fully coat them. Roll the battered curds in a bowl of seasoned bread crumbs. Alternatively, you may roll the cheese curds in flour, an egg wash and seasoned bread crumbs. Spoon the breaded curds onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
The Freezing Step
Freezing the breaded cheese curds allows the cheese to firm up and helps the breading stick better. If you plan to fry them right away, you only need to freeze the curds for 20 to 30 minutes before frying. However, if you want to fry them later, leave the curds in the freezer until you're ready. If you've left them in the freezer for several hours, let the breaded curds sit out at room temperature for five to 10 minutes while you heat up the oil, so they can soften up just a bit.
Fill a deep skillet with at least 2 inches of oil and bring it to a medium-high temperature on the stove, about 375 degrees Fahrenheit. When the oil is fully heated, add the breaded cheese curds to the oil in batches. Let them fry for about a minute, until they turn light golden brown. Remove them immediately with a slotted spoon and place them on a platter lined with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images