Food, Recipes

Fried Goat Cheese Balls

After years of threatening to try the recipe for goat cheese balls, I finally did it. Now, I am completely unsure of what I was waiting for and how I could have missed out on these tasty morsels for so long.

If you are a fan of the show Vanderpump Rules on Bravo (which I will abashedly admit I am glued to regularly) you will be familiar with these little treats. The show, which follows a group of servers at a SUR Restaurant, a popular West Hollywood eatery, has had this appetizer on rotation and as a topic of conversation since the start of the series, roughly 11 years ago.

I never considered myself a goat cheese fan years back, but I have since developed my palate and come to my senses. I bit the bullet and tried making these mostly out of necessity. We have been trying to lean into eating vegetarian more regularly during the week in an effort to be healthy, but at times, finding recipes that excite us gets cumbersome.

I had two logs of gourmet La Bonne Vie goat cheese in my fridge that I purchased from my favorite local grocer, Lowcountry Fresh, which I had originally intended as a spread with my homemade fresh fig jam and crusty baguette. I, per usual, overpurchased in the cheese department and was left staring at these glorious nuggets, wracking my brain to figure out what I could do to make the most of them. Then it struck me…fry those puppies up into the long awaited goat cheese balls!

I have never made my own, but I have had fried goat cheese medallions on several occasions at local eatery Frankie Bones. They have a delightful salad that serves them pecan crusted and perched atop a delicate salad with a raspberry dressing. It gives that perfect juxtaposition of flavors, combining the taste of savory fried cheese with light greens and a sweet, tangy vinaigrette. It is kind of the equivalent of ordering a healthy salad with a side of fries, which is another favorite of mine. It says, “I am healthy…sort of.”

To be honest, I have always been a little frightened of frying food in general. My Mom always disliked the idea of frying growing up, and I maintain this deep seated notion from childhood that if I attempt to fry something, I will most certainly burn down the house. That said, you should always have a fire extinguisher, a fire blanket and a plan (in case that does happen) ready to go in your kitchen if you plan to fry at all. It is always better to be safe, than sorry. Remember, never throw water on a grease fire. See, those middle school home economics classes really do come in handy for something besides pillow making!

So to get to the nitty gritty, I will tell you what I did. I researched many recipes for these goat cheese balls, all with their own small twist, but very similar. I also read the recipe that appears directly on Pandora Vanderpump’s blog, Very Vanderpump, as they are not stingy with sharing it with the public. She also provides the recipe for their mango dipping sauce here.

I made a minor tweak to the original recipe, using a bit of all-purpose flour and a little less egg yolk. As for the portions, you really only want to use about a heaping teaspoon as suggested by Pandora and roll them (while the cheese is cold to avoid a mess!) like a you would a meatball. You can make them any size you desire, but they are quite dense and creamy, so you want to maintain the correct cream to crust texture ratio between the cheese and fried shell, for the best results.

As a helpful tip, you will have to double dredge in flour and egg. This creates a nice little cocoon around the cheese to prevent it from seeping out when dropped in the hot oil, so don’t skip it. This process gets very sticky on your hands. I suggest designating one hand for the flour and egg and the other for the breadcrumbs to avoid a goopy mess in your dredging stations to get more mileage from them.

Now here is where it gets interesting. I used a log of herbed garlic goat cheese and a sweet honey goat cheese to try out a range of flavors. I was 1,000% certain I would be more fond of the garlic version, but I actually LOVED the honey version, as it gave that perfect mix of sweet and savory with the crispy fried shell. A drizzle of fresh, local honey on top of these makes them an appetizer worthy of serving to company. You can find the most delicious local honey from (my favorite) T’s Bees in Savannah, GA at our local farmer’s markets.

The possibilities are truly endless, as you can opt for any flavor cheese, make your own flavors, and serve with any dipping sauce that sounds appealing to you. I definitely suggest adding the garlic powder and pepper to the panko crumbs for a little flavorful zest, but make these your own as far as seasoning goes. It really allows for some creativity. However, do not skip sprinkling a bit of large grain, finishing sea salt like Maldon (my favorite) when they are fresh out of the fryer. This adds the perfect touch of taste.

As for the tools, I suggest using a large cast iron pan, or a small cast iron pot for frying is really best. You can get one for a very reasonable price online, and they are handy to have around. These pots are insulated and heavy, so it reduces the risk of burning your oil to the point of catching fire. The pots are also ideal, over using a pan, because they have that heavy lid you can put over the top to damper out a flare up, in the off chance that one occurs.

All that said, don’t let cooking with oil scare you! You just need to be present and highly aware while the oil is over a heat source. I recommend getting a good temp reader, like the Taylor candy thermometer with a pot clip, that you see in my photos. They don’t cost too much and allow you to see the temps so you can reduce or adjust the head according to the reading on the mercury. It is quite handy and helpful. Each batch takes only 20-30 seconds, so the process of making several batches is impossibly fast!

Now get to cooking. I promise once you try these you won’t look back. They are so easy and tasty. A perfect addition to the weekly lineup.


Fried Goat Cheese Balls

Kristen
Golden fried and creamy, these goat cheese balls make the perfect appetizer for entertaining or salad topper for a weeknight treat.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Resting Time 12 hours
Course Appetizer, Main Course, Salad, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine American, Mediterranean
Servings 10 balls

Equipment

  • 3 dredging bowls
  • 2 quart cast iron pot
  • Spider Scooper
  • Candy Thermometer with Clip
  • 1 ¾ Sheet Pan
  • Parchment Paper/Saran Wrap
  • Serving Platter

Ingredients
  

  • 8 oz goat cheese
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups canola or vegetable oil should cover cheese balls to submerge

Instructions
 

Prep

  • Create a dredging station with three separate bowls. Fill one with flour, one with panko breadcrumbs tossed with garlic powder and pepper, and another with the eggs (cracked and whisked smooth).
  • Prepare a small rimmed sheet pan (3/4 pan) with parchment paper and set to side. (You will place the coated cheese balls on this to set in the refrigerator.)
  • Remove goat cheese from fridge and form teaspoon sized balls. Roll into small balls and place on a plate to the side until all are completed.
  • Once balls have been formed, dip each into the flour first, then the egg bowl, then repeat rolling each in the flour once again, and also in the egg again. Be sure to cover each cheese ball completely during each step of this process. (Gets a little sticky!)
  • After second egg coating, roll each ball in the panko breadcrumbs and be sure to coat completely. Place in a flat layer on the parchment lined baking sheet.
  • Cover loosely with Saran Wrap and place pan flat in fridge to set for 12-24 hours.

Frying

  • Add canola or vegetable oil to your cast iron pot and place on stove. Secure your thermometer firmly on the side with clip so that the tip of thermometer is submerged in the oil.
  • Heat oil slowly on medium heat until you reach 375 degrees reading.
  • Remove formed cheese balls from fridge. Drop 4-5 at a time into the hot oil using a spider tool to avoid skin contact with the oil.
  • Fry for 20-30 seconds, checking regularly. Do not overcook to avoid popping! Once golden colored, remove and place on paper towels to absorb the excess oil. Sprinkle with finishing salt.
  • Repeat in batches until all cheese balls have been fried. Place on serving tray alone or with your favorite dipping sauce, serve and enjoy!