Big Little Recipes

Mozzarella Schnitzel Will Save Us All

September 21, 2021

A 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!


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!).”

Photo by Photographer: Julia Gartland Prop Stylist: Gerri Williams Food Stylist: Kate Buckens

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.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I could not get the right mix of salt and pepper to give the dish flavor. We were serving it in its pure form to try it (sauce would have been a big help) and, despite a pretty easy-to-please crowd, we could not get the seasoning right. Anyhow, I want to do it again with some modifications..... love the idea. .. ”
— DaniellaBL
Comment

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.

Or you could schnitzel all sorts of not meats. Think: carrot, mushroom, cabbage, and, today, cheese. Cheese!

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.

Preorder now

Put down those long grocery lists. Inspired by the award-winning column, our upcoming Big Little Recipes cookbook is minimalism at its best: few ingredients, tons of flavor.

Preorder now

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles on the fly, baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., and writing about the history of pie in North Carolina. Now she lives in New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's award-winning column, Big Little Recipes (also the cookbook in October 2021!). And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

38 Comments

Edward October 11, 2021
How thick are the resulting mozz pieces? I typically buy whole balls and was thinking of just slicing it up?
 
Sharon R. October 12, 2021
I don't think a ball of mozzarella would work as weak, It would be too soft. I made it for the first time this weekend (it was wonderful) and used sliced mozzarella that was prepackaged.
 
Edward October 12, 2021
Hi Sharon, thanks for your reply.

I think maybe I used the wrong phrase, since “ball” probably does imply fresh mozzarella.

I mean the low moisture mozzarella that’s sold in I guess a chub (?), typically 1 pound? At my local grocery store, the fresh is in the fancy cheese section near the deli while the low moisture chubs are over near the Kraft singles in the dairy aisle.

Anyway, it does slice easily, and we seem to only have slices of the fresh, so im not sure how thick to slice it? 1/4 inch? Half inch?
Thank you!
 
Andrew W. October 12, 2021
Just to be sure we're on the same page, Edward, you've got low-moisture mozzarella in balls, not fresh mozzarella, which won't really work for this recipe. Eyeballing it, I'd say the three slices together are around a 3/16in (5mm). If you have a deli slicer it's going to between a 8 and a 10. You'll have a better idea than I do if you're able to hand slice the cheese that thinly. (In my personal experience the springiness makes precise cutting difficult) If your slices are thicker than that leave them out for a bit to come to room temp before starting dredging rather than trying to adjust the temperature of the pan/cook time.

I'd also pay attention to the direction of your slice, I'm sure you've noticed that your mozz has a grain direction like a piece of meat (this is what makes string cheese possible). If you cut with the grain you'll get long protein strands which might make the schnitzel chewy, so make sure you're cutting against the grain (or go for a bias cut if you'd like them a little more al dente).
 
Edward October 12, 2021
Hi Andrew. Thank you, yes, we are on the same page. I did try to make some slices, was able to slice it decently by hand about 1/4 inch thick, across the grain, until I got to the end, where it got a bit hard to do from the sponginess. Which is ok as it gives me a little mid prep cheese snack ;)

In my head, when I was envisioning pre-sliced mozzarella, I was looking for low-moisture but sliced like the fresh slices they have, which are about 1/4 inch. Didn't look at the thinner sliced section! I bet they do have that as well.

Thanks again!
 
DaniellaBL October 4, 2021
So I tried this last night and have a few observations. Happy to hear thoughts from others.

1. My mozzarella would not mush together to become a larger entity. I tried and it fell apart in the egg. That was Batch 1.
2. The oil needs to be much hotter than I expected and the cheese cooked quicker at a higher temp. Batch 2 got thrown out because it was limp and not at all crispy despite being fried for the right amount of time.
3. I could not get the right mix of salt and pepper to give the dish flavor. We were serving it in its pure form to try it (sauce would have been a big help) and, despite a pretty easy-to-please crowd, we could not get the seasoning right.

Anyhow, I want to do it again with some modifications..... love the idea. ..
 
DaniellaBL September 28, 2021
Has anyone tried bread crumbs? I am dying to make this but do not have panko on hand. Thanks!
 
Noni September 28, 2021
Trust me, you will want to follow this very simple recipe as directed. The crunch from the panko makes the dish.
 
Sharon R. October 12, 2021
@Noni is right about the crunch, but I think you would still get a good result with regular bread crumbs.
 
Andrew W. October 12, 2021
As another option, if you've got white bread you can make a quick panko yourself: preheat your oven to 300. Cut the crusts off of some white bread (Rough guess, I'd say one slice makes about a tablespoon of panko), then give the bread a rough chop. Toss that in a food processor and pulse two or three times for a coarse consistency (If you happen to have a processor with a shredding disc it works great for this). Spread the crumbs out on a baking sheet and pop it in the oven for 6-8 minutes giving the pan a shake every couple of minutes. You want the pieces to be crisp, but not toasted. Let the crumbs cool in the pan before you use them or store them (If storing make sure they are completely cooled. Keep a couple weeks in the pantry, or a couple months in the freezer).
 
Noni September 28, 2021
I made this for my husband last evening along with a salad topped tomato fresh from a friends garden. Let's say it was a big hit. Very simple recipe to follow, I watched the video just now. Thanks, happy cooking.
 
[email protected] September 26, 2021
I now see that the description does in fact omit mentioning the step of dredging in flour for some reason:
“ … pre-sliced mozzarella … is already square and thin, so no need for cutting or pounding. Just stack up a few pieces, press them together with your hands …

All that’s left is to dip it in beaten egg, tumble it in crackly panko, and pan-fry it in a skillet. “
 
Andrew W. September 22, 2021
The possibilities for this technique might be endless: layer a couple with tomato sauce and broiled eggplant for a 20 minute parm, swap the mozzarella for gruyere and build an "open-face" croque monsieur/madame (or a reuben? mmmmm), make it from pepper jack and pop that on top of a burrito bowl, top with tomato and basil for a low gluten bruschetta, make them from American and turn any bowl of mac & cheese "homestyle"... The mind reels.
 
deanna September 21, 2021
Loved your suggestion on how to set up the dipping process! I tend to do things the hard way. This is wonderful idea for game night.
 
Emily September 21, 2021
This is standard smažený sýr - Czech fried cheese. It is a big rectangle of cheese and is served with a side of tartar sauce.
 
BonnieC. September 21, 2021
Yup - I'm Czech & agree. And i'm also SO not offended by the recipe poster calling it a "schnitzel". Good grief - find something else more important to whine about.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. September 22, 2021
Hi Emily! Thanks for this—I appreciate you noting the similarities. I wasn't familiar with smažený sýr and it looks very delicious.
 
Emily September 23, 2021
What makes you think I was offended or whining, BonnieC.? Nothing in my comment hints at being offended or whining. Yet you seem to be both offended and whining.
 
Achefwannabe September 25, 2021
Emily, she was referring to BurgeoningBaker’s comment posted on September 21st.
 
Edward October 11, 2021
I had something very similar in Prague that was served with honey. Sweet, savory, cheesy, crunchy delicious
 
Robin September 21, 2021
Emma, I love this idea!! You are very clever. How thin should the mozzarella be?
 
BurgeoningBaker September 21, 2021
The author of this recipe and entry must not have realized that a schnitzel is a specific thing a cutlet of meat. As she stated as such, she is contradicting herself. You can not schnitzel something. It isn’t a verb. It is a noun. This isn’t a cheese schnitzel it’s more like blob or patty and while delicious, it may be worth the time to actually care about the foods you write about or the terms you use for some other’s culinary traditions.
 
BonnieC. September 21, 2021
Oh come on now - it was just a cute reference/title. No one in their right mind took this as an insult to the Germanic meaning of a "schnitzel". Get real.

Oh - & it's certainly not a "blob". If you don't like it, don't read it/don't cook it. I doubt anyone will care.
 
Robin September 21, 2021
🙄
 
Andrew W. September 22, 2021
If you had taken the time to do a little research you might have learned that vegetarians in central europe make schnitzel out of all sorts of things that aren't meat, including gouda cheese, and the only people who say anything about it are the kind of people who are jerks to vegetarians. Maybe when defending "other's culinary traditions" you should be sure you should be sure that they care first.
 
Carrie September 21, 2021
Watched the video and just wanted to say, “Schnitz-arella!” is what you are looking for. 😜
 
Sharon R. September 21, 2021
Brilliance!
 
[email protected] September 21, 2021
Recipe appears to be missing the step of dredging the mozzarella in flour (presumably that’s the purpose of the flour included in the recipe list).

Does anyone edit/proof/check recipes before they are published.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. September 21, 2021
Hi! The recipe does include the flour—in step two, where you set up the dredging station, and step four, where you dredge the mozzarella.
 
[email protected] September 21, 2021
My oops- must have badly misread the instructions!
 
Connie B. September 26, 2021
No, I don't think you did Douglas....the flour step is missing in the opening narrative so 'we' read correctly. :-)
 
BonnieC. September 21, 2021
Our favorite upscale country Mediterranean/Italian restaurant offers something like this as an appetizer. They call it "Mozzarella Fritta" & it's absolutely DELICIOUS!!! Instead of low-moisture mozzarella, they use slices of fresh & I imagine cook it for less time. They serve it with a "light lemon anchovy sauce" & fried parsley sprigs, & the whole thing together is mouthwatering. I can't wait to try this Food52 version.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. September 21, 2021
Yum! Love anything with anchovies.
 
Andrew W. September 22, 2021
What a great idea! I am totally going to make Mozzarella Picatta now!
 
Achefwannabe September 25, 2021
Stop it. I will be frying cheese daily with all these variations.
 
FrugalCat September 21, 2021
This would be awesome on top of a thin burger. Just saying.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. September 21, 2021
Would be very awesome.
 
Achefwannabe September 25, 2021
Touché.