You should fry your cheese. Frying cheese adds golden volumes to its flavor and texture — but it’s also a delicious way to lower its fat and calories. To be clear: Hang on to your cheese sticks. We’re not talking state fair-style, deep-fried and breaded mozzarella or gooey-stuffed jalapeno poppers. All of that breading absorbs the frying oil, and those gut bombs will forever hold a lot of heft. No. We’re talking pan-frying unadulterated cheeses — with lighter, positively delicious, and often crispy, results.
The secret is that you need to select the right sort of sturdy cheese that can hold its structure under heat. A non-stick surface is often helpful, too. Grab some paper towels for blotting and you’re the fried cheese master of the house.
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Most types of cheese will just ooze across the pan, making a lake of melted cheese that isn’t quite a sauce and is difficult to use. But trial and error has proven a few winners for grilling or dry frying, depending on the final results you’re after.
If you want something warm and creamy, which holds its shape beautifully, there’s a whole family of cheeses for you: mild, fresh cheeses like queso blanco, haloumi (also sold as “grilling cheese”) or paneer. Slice them about 1/3-inch thick and sear or grill for a few minutes in a nonstick pan until brown. Flip the cheese with a sturdy spatula — not tongs — to get that brilliant brown color on both sides. Once cooked, pat with paper towels to absorb any rendered fat, sprinkle with flaky sea salt (like Maldon) and squeeze of fresh lemon juice over the top for maximum deliciousness. Eat it on its own as an appetizer or tuck it into pita, tortillas or lavash topped with fresh lettuce, tomato, red onion, avocado, hummus or salsa. Eat these cheeses hot — that’s when they’re at their best.
If it’s crispy you’re craving, two cheeses cook into crunchy crackers like champs: provolone and parmesan. Let’s start with provolone, the easiest of the two. Buy it sliced from the deli; it should be the same thickness as a slice of ham or turkey for a sandwich. Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium/medium-high heat and slap the cheese into the center of the pan. In just a few minutes it will bubble all over, but don’t touch it until you can see that it’s brown around the edges. Use a sturdy spatula to first loosen the cheese around the edges, and then flip it to cook the second side until brown; another 30-60 seconds. Transfer the cheese to paper towels to drain and blot it. See all that oil in the pan? That’s the fat and calories you’re leaving behind — and you won’t even miss it. Eat the crisp cheese cracker right away or let it cool on a rack to keep it crisp. Eat within a few hours.
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Parmesan crisps require a bit more effort because the cheese must first be grated — use a food processor to make quick work of this task — but they’re also easy to bake by the pan-full to feed a crowd. Spoon heaping tablespoons of the grated cheese 1/2-inch or so apart onto a parchment paper- or silicone-lined baking sheet. Bake at 400°F for about 5 minutes, until they’re brown and crispy. Let them cool slightly and munch away.
If you’re not going to eat them immediately, set them on a rack to remain crisp. Eat these on their own, or grab one to add savory crunch to creamy dips, soups, stews and salads. However you slice, sear or grill it, it’s easy-breezy to fry your cheese-y.