I knew when I moved from North Carolina to Wisconsin four years ago, that I would be in for a bit of a culture shock. I knew I’d be trading in 100 degree days in the summer for subzero chills in the winter, hearing fewer “y’all”s and more “oh yah”s, and knowing folks who care more about Packers-Bears than UNC-Duke. But one thing I was surprised about was the culinary trade. Sure, I knew it was going to be hard to find a good pulled pork sandwich or chicken and waffles place, but I really had no idea what I was going to get in exchange. And while I could go on about the virtues of a good brat or Friday fish fry, the undisputed top of the Wisconsin food pyramid is the fried cheese curd. The gooey, melty, stringy center surrounded by a light and crispy shell never fails to satisfy – at least when they’re fresh out of the fryer. But in this age of takeout and delivery, freshly fried too often gives way to soggy and stale, which means, as with so many other things, that fried cheese curds are yet another victim of this damned year.
Or so I thought. But I am here to tell you that I have discovered a perfect little recipe for a beer batter that will result in the thin, crunchy exterior of your dreams. And while I tried this batter out on some local cheese curds, my mind is already racing with all of the other things I could dip and fry and get that perfect texture.
Start by mixing 2 tablespoons of milk with a half teaspoon of white vinegar. Let this sit for 10 minutes to form a sort of buttermilk (if you have buttermilk already, just use 2 tablespoons of that). Add to that a 1/3 cup of any not-too-dark beer (I used Spotted Cow, like any good Wisconsinite) and one egg and whisk to combine. Add in a half cup plus two tablespoons of flour, as well as a pinch of salt, cayenne, and garlic powder. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes to make sure the flour is hydrated, and whisk again. Then simply add your food of choice to the batter and fry. For cheese curds, I went with 325F for 2-3 minutes.