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After last month's Mozzarella-Stuffed Onion Rings, it was only a matter of time before I shoved cheese inside another classic appetizer. (We all have our niches, and I happily accept all things cheese-stuffed as mine.)
This time, I decided to create a fried hybrid—a frybrid, if you will—of two of my favorite mozzarella-based appetizers: caprese salad and mozzarella sticks. The result are what I'm calling "Fried Caprese Bombs": mozzarella-filled mini-tomatoes that are breaded, fried, and served with plenty of basil and balsamic reduction.
The first step to a great caprese salad is finding the right tomatoes, and the same can be said for its fried cousin. But while I usually look for the biggest, juiciest tomatoes for fresh caprese salads, I wanted to use firmer, golf-ball-sized tomatoes here instead. They're the perfect size for individual popper-size balls.
I uses an apple corer to hollow out the centers of the tomatoes, but a mini melon baller would also work. After scooping out the seeds, I gently push ciliegine (small 1/2-ounce balls of mozzarella) into each one, being careful not to rip the tomatoes. At this point, they're ready to be coated.
I keep the skins on the tomatoes because they help hold everything together, but that means they're more difficult to bread. The key is to dip them in flour first to give the egg and breadcrumbs something to adhere to. A double-dip in the egg and breadcrumb then ensures that the tomatoes are fully covered and the breading is thick enough to keep the mozzarella from oozing out during frying.
When fried, the tomatoes soften, breaking down to a sauce-like texture in spots. Along with the melted cheese and breadcrumbs, it all reminds me of what it'd be like to put warm marinara inside a mozzarella stick. In other words, it's awesome.
For the sauce, I reduce a mixture of balsamic vinegar and honey, which I then drizzle over the Caprese Bombs before serving. Just make sure to wait until you're just about to serve them to drizzle, lest they get soggy.
For a finishing touch, I garnish each fried ball with a little fresh basil.
It's so damned good, I'm already thinking of what other cheesy dish I can transform into a fried snack...shouldn't take me long to come back with an answer.
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