Photo by John Ivanko
At the last Cheese Days celebration in Monroe, Wis., the polka-rock-band powerhouse Copper Box piped out: “Who Stole My Cheese Curds?” The crowds dancing in the streets surrounding the courthouse square cheered them on, many savoring their own serving of this popular Midwestern treat made from fresh cheese curds. Every other year in September, Cheese Days turns our small town into one big, three-day party that showcases local cheese and Swiss heritage, with yodeling, cheese and cream puffs for all.
While we’ve been known to sample a few of the thousands of cheese curds fried up by the Monroe Optimists Club at Cheese Days, our all-time favorites are those prepared at Graze in Madison, Wis. Chef Tory Miller takes extra-large cheese curds from Sassy Cow Creamery and transforms them into melt-in-your-mouth heaven.
You’ll have to search your local cheese factory for the curds because using regular cheese won’t hold up to the frying process. Cheese curds are the result of the first step in making cheese when the milk is curdled with rennet. How the curds are salted and handled define the shape, flavor, texture and type of certain cheeses.
The recipe below is our version of fried cheese curds prepared with a vodka-based batter. (We tried to get Chef Tory’s actual recipe without luck.) Catch us in line in a couple weeks at Cheese Days for the Optimists’ Fried Cheese Curds. The line is shorter on Friday night.
Recipe: Fried Cheese Curds
“The batter itself is just a mixture of flour, some spices, and soda water,” explains Samantha Engelhoff at Graze. “It’s a super simple recipe. Most fried cheese curds are made with beer, but we use vodka because they fry up quicker and the cheese stays nice and gooey inside and crispy on the outside!” The key is getting fresh cheese curds and making sure that the fryer oil is hot.
Yield: 7 appetizer-sized portions
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 T. corn starch
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1½ T. milk
- 1 T. soda water
- 1 T. vodka
- 12 ounces cheddar cheese curds (about 3/4-pound package)
- 1½ cup canola oil for frying
In medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, corn starch and salt. In separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, soda water and vodka. Add the wet ingredients to dry ingredients, mixing until smooth.
Set a deep fryer temperature to 425 to 450 degrees F. Coat cheddar cheese curds with batter, and fry the individually coated cheese curds for approximately 1 minute each or until golden brown. Drain curds on paper towels.
Serve fried cheese curds in paper lined basket with ranch dressing for dipping.
Savoring the good life,