Woohoo! Last week I wore flip flops on the same day I skied! And this happened at an altitude of about ten thousand feet! Because it is spring my friends, finally! So I made us a spring worthy craft beering snack – paprika panko crusted feta cheese bites.
I also whipped up Chris’ easy from scratch lemon garlic aioli which lent extra pungency to the feta bites. Not that the cheese needed it, but I was craving strong, fresh flavors and his aioli worked out perfectly. So excited to share both recipes with you.
These crispy little bites are kind of like having cheese and crackers in one. Seriously, think about it. The paprika flavored Panko crust is like a fresh baked cracker encasing the warmed cheese. Delicious:) I also really enjoyed the herbal presence of the fresh garlic chives I picked up for garnish – a milder flavor to echo the garlic in the aioli.
Pairing wise I recommend crisp, dry-ish beers such as pilsners, and helles, even though these feta bites can partner extremely well with a variety of craft beers. Hefeweizens work great, and so do saisons. In fact I opened a saison brewed with barley, wheat and rice – the Collete Farmhouse Ale of Great Divide Brewing Co. out of Denver, Colorado. It is one of our go to saisons. We love its dry finish and how easy it is to drink – the 7.3% ABV is masterfully concealed by a complex, yet elegant blend of fruity and semi-tart flavors.
You may have noticed that I am slightly obsessed with cheese, almost as much as with craft beer. There are very few cheeses out there that I do not like and they are mostly in the processed realm. The more pungent the cheese the happier it makes me.
Even though I usually make these bites with feta cheese, they turn out really good with a variety of semi-hard cheeses. So fear not – if you do not share my affection for feta go with Gouda, Emmental or Gruyère. If you like feta though you will appreciate the fact that there is plenty of paprika in the breading – they taste so good together. Sometimes I slice feta really thin, sprinkle a lot of paprika all over, drizzle it with extra virgin olive oil, grab a fork and open a beer. Aaah…so good.
As I have written before, if you can, use the Bulgarian sheep milk feta cheese sold in a big chunk and in brine. It is creamier than any Greek feta, tastes better and does not crumble as easily. Sometimes it can be on the salty side, so be sure to taste it first. If it is too salty replace the brine with cold water and wait for the salt to transition into the water.
The size of the bites is totally up to you. If you prefer crispier pieces opt for smaller bites and expect to use a little extra egg wash, Panko crumbs and flour.
If you are not into garlic aioli, a fun thing to use in its place is roasted red peppers spread or perhaps sun dried tomatoes in olive oil.
Recipe for Paprika and Panko Crusted Feta Cheese Bites
- 3/4 lbs or close chunk of feta in brine (preferably Bulgarian)
- 4 large eggs
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1/4 cup olive oil or vegetable oil for light frying
- 1 small bunch of garlic chives for garnish, optional
- 2 cloves garlic grated or pressed
- 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- pinch of salt
- Turn oven to 350° F. Prepare a silpat lined sheet pan.
- To make the feta bites - cut the cheese into bite size pieces (about as big as chicken nuggets)
- Beat 2 eggs well to make egg wash and set aside.
- In a bowl mix together the flour, Panko crumbs and paprika.
- Heat the 1/4 cup of olive oil (or vegetable oil) in a frying pan over medium-high heat.
- Dip a piece of feta in the egg wash and coat with Panko mixture.
- Lightly fry on each side (working with 4-5 feta pieces at a time) and transfer onto the silpat lined sheet pan.
- When all pieces are onto the sheet pan place in the oven for 10 minutes.
- In the meantime make the aioli.
- Using a mixer beat the yolks of the remaining 2 eggs (discard the whites).
- Add the pressed garlic, salt, lemon juice and while continuing to mix slowly add the 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil.
- Take the feta bites out of the oven and arrange for serving, drizzle with aioli and garnish with chives (if using).