Fried Bocconcini with Spicy Tomato and Garlic Chutney

I’ve talked about my love of sports a million times here and while I watch just about anything, my local Boston sports teams are my favorites. So, it probably won’t come as a big surprise to anyone that I’m pretty stoked about the Super Bowl this weekend! We’ve been hosting a get-together with friends for years so we always watch the game, regardless of whether the Patriots make it, but to have them there makes it even more exciting (and nerve-wracking!). While the game is my main priority, let’s face it – putting together a menu for the big day is a close second :) I have a couple of new ideas to share with you this week and I’ll also be highlighting some great recipes from the archives as well to assist you in putting together your menu.

Fried Bocconcini with Spicy Tomato and Garlic Chutney

First up are these fried bocconcini. If you’ve never heard of them, bocconcini are just little balls of mozzarella cheese. I found mine at Trader Joe’s, but I’ve also seen them in my local grocery store (either near the deli or in the cheese section) so no worries if you don’t have a Trader Joe’s. If you grew up loving the mozzarella sticks that were often included as an appetizer option on the menu at your local chain restaurants, these will be right up your alley.

Fried Bocconcini with Spicy Tomato and Garlic Chutney

And yes, these are fried. I really don’t fry very often, it’s not my favorite thing to do, but occasionally I think it’s worth it. Like for a Super Bowl party :) This recipe actually doesn’t call for a ton of oil so I fried in a saucepan as opposed to a giant Dutch oven, which made the process seem less scary. Plus, the bocconcini are only in the oil for 20-30 seconds each, so this moves quickly. They emerge perfectly golden brown and crisp on the outside with warm, stretchy mozzarella cheese inside. Just like the mozzarella sticks I used to love, only better.

Fried Bocconcini with Spicy Tomato and Garlic Chutney

Though marinara sauce is probably more traditional, I thought this chutney sounded good so I gave it a whirl. It’s easy to throw together, and a fun change of pace. It’s got a little bit of that sweet and spicy combo going on, which is something I really like so a definite thumbs up here. These would be great with any number of sauces, so just pick your favorite!

Will you guys be watching the Super Bowl? Do you care about the game or is it more about the food and commercials for you?

Fried Bocconcini with Spicy Tomato and Garlic Chutney
adapted from Giada de Laurentiis (via FoodNetwork.com)

Chutney
8 cloves garlic, peeled
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 (15-oz) can diced tomatoes

Fried Bocconcini
16 (1-inch diameter) balls bocconcini mozzarella cheese
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
3 cups seasoned Italian-style bread crumbs
4 cups vegetable or peanut oil, for frying

To make the chutney: Combine the garlic, ginger, salt, red wine vinegar, sugar, olive oil, cumin and cayenne pepper in your blender. Blend until smooth and well combined. Transfer the mixture to a medium saucepan along with the tomatoes (and their juices). Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is thick, about 45-55 minutes. Gently break up the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon as the chutney cooks. Season the mixture to taste with salt. Allow the chutney to cool to room temperature before serving.

To make the fried bocconcini: Drain the bocconcini well and place on a paper towel-lined plate. Pat the tops dry. Refrigerate (uncovered) for 2 hours to allow the bocconcini to dry completely.

Preheat oven to 200 F. Place a wire rack inside of a rimmed baking sheet and set aside.

Gather three wide, shallow bowls. Add the flour to the first, and season with salt and pepper. Beat the eggs together in the second bowl. Place the bread crumbs in the third bowl. Coat each ball of cheese with the flour, then dip in the eggs and roll in the bread crumbs until evenly coated. Dip the coated balls in the eggs and bread crumbs a second time. Repeat with all of the bocconcini. Freeze the breaded bocconcini for 10 minutes (don’t be tempted to leave them in there longer, or the mozzarella will still be cold after frying).

Meanwhile, pour the oil to a depth of about 3 inches into a large saucepan. Set the pan over medium-high heat and heat the oil to 375 F on a deep-frying thermometer. Working with just a few bocconcini at a time, fry the balls until they are golden brown, about 20-30 seconds each. If the temperature of the oil drops, allow it to rise back to 375 F before frying additional balls. Transfer the balls to a paper towel-lined plate briefly then place them on the wire rack and keep warm in the oven while you fry the remaining cheese.

Serve with the chutney.