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Tuesday, July 7, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Dorothy Dean presents: Celebrate National Cheese Day with fabulous fromage

UPDATED: Mon., May 25, 2020

By Audrey Alfaro For The Spokesman-Review

Just like the Fourth of July is celebrated with fireworks, the Fourth of June deserves them, too. Why, you ask? Because it is a day honoring one of humankind’s all-time favorite foods – the king of dairy: cheese.

Obviously, cheese must be eaten this day. And seeing that it is already an essential part of my diet, partaking in this cheesy holiday will be cake – er, should I say, cheesecake?

The European Union is the top producer of cheese in the world, followed by the U.S., and it is no surprise that the top cheese-making state is Wisconsin, the home of the Cheesehead. Here are some other fromage facts:

Fromage is French for “cheese.”

Mozzarella is the most popular cheese in America, which goes hand-in-hand with our love of pizza.

It takes 10 pounds of milk to make just 1 pound of cheese.

People who love cheese are called turophiles.

There are more than 2,000 varieties of cheese.

The average American consumes about 37 pounds of cheese each year, and this recipe is about to contribute to that figure.

We clearly love cheese in all shapes and forms, like cheese curds. Cheese curds, for those who have not heard of them, are pieces of natural-shaped cheddar before it is formed into blocks and aged.

Their texture is firm and rubbery, and the freshest ones squeak when bitten, giving them the nickname “squeaky cheese.” Popular in the Midwest, where there is an abundance of cheese factories, the curds have a mild taste with a delicious balance of salty-cheesiness.

They can be eaten plain, tossed with herbs and spices, served Canadian-style with French fries and gravy (called “poutine”) or, my favorite way, battered and fried. Usually found on bar menus or at your local state fair, fried cheese curds are golden nuggets of ooey-gooey bliss.

Their molten cheesy centers and crisp coating make them irresistibly delicious. And the fact you can easily make them at home – devouring them with or without pants on – makes them all the tastier.

This recipe coats them in a beer batter seasoned with salt, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne and pepper. The battered curds are then chilled before frying, which helps the coating to adhere and also creates a light and crispy crust.

Frying them in small batches keeps the oil hot and ensures they do not melt into a giant heap of cheese. Like most fried food, they are served with dipping sauce. I love them paired with marinara, though ranch, ketchup and garlic aioli are other popular options.

Or better yet, go cheese-on-cheese with nacho cheese sauce. Seems fitting since we are all turophiles, and National Cheese Day is June 4!

Cheese Curds

16 ounces cheese curds

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour, divided

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 egg

2/3 cup beer

Oil for frying

For serving: marinara or desired dips

Place the cheese curds into a bowl and toss them with 2 tablespoons of flour until lightly coated. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, add the remaining 1/2 cup of flour, baking powder, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne and pepper. Whisk to combine, then add in the egg and beer, and whisk until smooth.

Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or wax paper, then set aside.

Using a fork or clean fingers, dip the flour-coated cheese curds in the batter and shake off any excess batter, so just a light layer remains. Place the battered curds on the prepared baking sheet and refrigerate for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil to 375 degrees in a deep fryer or large pot.

Working in batches of 5-7 curds at a time, fry the cheese curds in the hot oil for about 1 minute, turning halfway through, until golden. Do not overcook, or the cheese curds will ooze through the coating. Drain on paper towels.

Serve the fried cheese curds with marinara or desired dips.

Audrey Alfaro can be reached at spoonandswallow@yahoo.com.

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