Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. That means five ingredients or fewer — not including water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (like oil and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. Psst, did you hear we're coming out with a cookbook? We're coming out with a cookbook!
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Years back, I used to spend most of my free time in an ice skating rink, which meant a lot of spandex, Pac-Man, scrunchies, hand warmers, and, best of all, mozzarella sticks. I was never that good at skating — and honestly never that good at Pac-Man — but I was especially good at eating snack-bar snacks, greasy from the fryer, hot enough to burn my tongue.
Years later, I learned that you can make mozzarella sticks at home. In fact, we have not one, but two(!) encouraging guides on this topic. Sarah Jampel insisted that homemade mozz sticks "will be better than any you can find in the freezer aisle of your local grocery store (or at the pool or bowling alley or roller rink 'Snack Shack')." Erin Alexander assured, "It's really not as hard as it sounds (don't let the hot oil scare you off!)."
And they're right! DIY is better than what I stuffed my face with at the skating rink. It is more flavorful. It is more customizable. And it is more achievable than you'd expect. But — there's always a but — it's also enough of an investment that if you, like me, get an uncontrollable mozz stick craving (UMSC) at 12:43 p.m., exactly 17 minutes before your next Zoom meeting, you're out of luck.
Which is why this Big Little Recipe isn't a mozz stick, not technically. Instead of the signature stick shape, we are making something that is less curvy and more flat, something that is less of a project and more of a whim. We are making schnitzel.
German for "cutlet," schnitzel refers to a super-duper thin slice of meat, breaded with eggs and crumbs, and fried until crispy as all get-out. Veal, as in wiener schnitzel, is traditional in Austria, but you can also schnitzel all sorts of meats, like pork or chicken.
Low-moisture, pre-sliced mozzarella is nothing if not convenient. It is already square and thin, so no need for cutting or pounding. Just stack up a few pieces, press them together with your hands, and look, you have a cutlet.
All that's left is to dip it in beaten egg, tumble it in crackly panko, and pan-fry it in a skillet. No seasoning besides salt and pepper. No deep frying (and then cleaning up after deep frying). No driving to the skating rink. Just badabing, badaboom.
It's extra-crunchy, oh-so gooey, and ripe for a cheese pull if that's your thing. Serve on the immediate with a lemony salad and, if the day slash time slash mood allows, a very cold beer.
Recipe: Mozzarella Schnitzel
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
- 2 to 4 slices low-moisture mozzarella
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup panko
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Neutral oil, such as canola or grapeseed
- Stack enough mozzarella slices to reach about 3/4 centimeter in height. (For me, this is three, but it depends on how thick your slices are.) Gently press down on the stack to encourage the slices to stick together.
- Set up a dredging station in this order, leading toward the stove: Flour on a rimmed plate; egg cracked into a shallow bowl or rimmed plate and whisked until smooth; panko on another rimmed plate. Generously season each with salt and pepper.
- Set a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and add enough oil to thickly coat the bottom.
- While that heats, dredge your mozzarella: Coat the mozzarella stack in flour, then egg, then panko. Press firmly at the last station, so as many crumbs as possible adhere.
- Drop a piece of panko into the oil. If it instantly sizzles, you're ready to cook. If not, wait a little longer.
- When the oil is hot, add the breaded mozzarella. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes on the first side, until deeply browned around the edges and golden in the middle. Carefully flip, then cook for another 1 to 2 minutes on the other side until you get that same golden-middle, browned-edges color here.
- Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate and quickly blot both sides and remove excess oil. Eat immediately.