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When I think of comfort food here in America, cheese and fried foods are at the top of that list. Today I’m going to be looking at one of my favorite midwestern comfort foods that combines those two elements – beer battered cheese curds.
This is the perfect cold weather comfort food (if you have ever been to Wisconsin, you know what I mean). Never heard of cheese curds? Well, you probably aren’t alone – cheese curds are not too common here on the West Coast!
What are Cheese Curds?
Cheese curds are a slightly earlier stage of cheese before being pressed and aged. Cheese curds have a mild flavor compared to finished cheese. It is common for fresh cheese curds to have a squeaking sound when biting into them (like rubbing two balloons together).
My Approach to Beer Battered Cheese Curds
When it comes to making any deep-fried foods such as potatoes or cheese dishes, oil management is key. If you haven’t read my article on patatas bravas, now is a good time to check it out. For the quick version, when it comes to working with oil in this beer battered deep fried cheese curds recipe, here is what you should do:
- Be safe – use a high walled, thick-bottomed pot for the oil.
- No water on anything. Do not use a watery or damp spoon or spider (a wide and flat version of a sieve). That is just asking for pops of oil in your face.
- Use an instant-read thermometer with a long probe. I am using an oven probe on a long lead so it is easy to dangle into the oil from far away.
- Manage your oil temperature. Cold oil makes deep frying much unhealthier, so avoid this.
What Makes a Good Beer Batter
When coming up with a good beer batter, you first need to think through what you are actually frying. The batter you use for frying cheese will likely be different than the batter you might use to fry onion rings.
While there is no one perfect beer for every food, there are a few things to keep in mind.
- Adding any beer will add carbonation and air up your batter.
- Floral / aromatic qualities of the beer are severely, if not completely, removed when frying.
- Finally, the malt will give your batter a sweet note to it, so be careful not to burn these sugars.
Today, I’m using Samuel Adams Octoberfest for my beer battered deep fried cheese curds recipe. This seasonal beer has a deep amber color with a lot of malt flavor to it, which is just perfect for turning cheese curds into the ultimate cold season comfort food.
Pairings with Fried Cheese Curds
While fried cheese may be the ultimate comfort food or game-day snack, you don’t have to eat them on their own. Beer battered cheese curds make an excellent side with burgers or ribs. Treat them almost like an alternative to french fries or tater tots and you can’t go wrong.
Frying at home does require some specific tools, but you definitely don’t need a dedicated deep fryer to make it happen.
- Thick-bottomed, high walled pot, a rondeau pan can also work for this type of frying.
- Instant read thermometer – the longer the probe or lead, the better (candy or dedicated fry thermometer is ideal, but almost any cooking thermometer works)
- Spider or slotted spoon to retrieve your fried goods
- Mixing bowl for batter
- 2 cups cheese curds (if these are not available in your immediate area, you can use a mild cheddar or low moisture mozzarella and cut it into ¾ inch cubes)
- Enough oil to bring pot to depth of 2-3 inches
- 1 egg
- 1.5 cups beer (the only beer we don’t really recommend for this is an IPA, as it will be quite bitter flavored when cooked)
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Add oil to pot and heat to between 350-375°F
- Add flour, baking powder, salt to mixing bowl
- Add egg and beer to mixing bowl and stir just to combine (it should be about the consistency of heavy cream or paint)
- Add cheese curds to batter in the mixing bowl
- Pick up half the curds in your spider and give it one shake to get the excess batter off
- Add to curds to oil and cook until golden brown (about 3 minutes)
- Drain on paper towel-lined plate
- Repeat with remaining curds