Chef Govind Armstrong
Post & Beam
Fresh cheese curds have a slightly rubbery texture and squeak when you bite into them. In order to enjoy the signature squeak, they should be eaten within one or two days of production. For that reason, curds have become a specialty in states like Wisconsin where dairy farming and cheese making take place. Chef Armstrong extends the curds’ longevity by deep-frying them for a cheesy appetizer that can be served as far away as his Los Angeles restaurant.
1 oz. fresh oregano sprigs (1/2 bunch)
1 oz. fresh thyme sprigs (1/2 bunch) plus 1 tbsp. chopped thyme
1 oz. fresh cilantro sprigs (1/2 bunch)
1/2 oz. fresh parsley sprigs
8 med. tomatoes, cored
1 head garlic, split
3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
2 cups panko bread crumbs
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs, well beaten
1 lb. cheddar cheese curds (1 to 1 ½-in. size)
Vegetable oil for deep frying
1 cup fresh parsley sprigs
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Prepare coulis: Soak herb sprigs in cold water 20 minutes. Prepare grill for cooking.
2. Drizzle tomatoes and garlic with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Make a circular bed of herbs on grill. Arrange tomatoes and garlic in a pyramid on top of herbs. Invert a large bowl over vegetables or cover with large piece of foil to seal in heat. Grill 30 minutes, or until tomatoes are roasted and slightly charred and garlic is just softening. Remove from grill.
3. Squeeze garlic cloves out from skins into saucepan. Add tomatoes and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Over medium heat, simmer for 15 minutes, removing tomato skin that rises to top. Pass mixture through a food mill or process in a food processor. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Place in an ice bath to cool.
4. In clean food processor, combine breadcrumbs, cornstarch, cayenne and 1 tablespoon chopped thyme. Process until breadcrumbs are finely ground. Place crumbs in pie plate. Pour beaten eggs into another pie plate and flour into a third pie plate. Dredge cheese curds in flour, then egg and finally, breadcrumb mixture. Place cheese curds on baking sheet and set in freezer for 20 minutes.
5. Heat 3 inches oil to temperature of 365 F to 375 F. Fry parsley leaves until crisp; drain on paper towels. Fry cheese curds in batches until crisp and warmed all the way through. Season with salt and pepper.
6. To serve, spoon crisp curds onto fried parsley. Top with coulis.
Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board